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With every man who has excelled in several 
directions, but particularly in one, there is a 
temptation for the observer of his work to slip 
immediately, though unconsciously, to that sec- 
tion of it in which his qualities are seen in most 
brilliant perfection. The younger Dumas was 
successful as a novelist, as a pamphleteer, and as a 
playwright, but his successes were so numerous 
and so sparkling on the boards of the theatre that 
they outdazzled the rest. If we speak of Dumas 
fils, we are apt to be thinking of the author of 
Denis e and of Franctllon ; we leap over every- 
thing else which he has written, and settle on the 
problem plays of the seventies. Even his most 
famous novels were turned into not less famous 
dramas, and if we describe La Dame aux Camilias 
and L Affaire CUmenceau, we have to be very 
careful to mention that it is the stories, not the 
pieces, to which we refer. But, in truth, the domi- 

Vol. 13—1 V 

The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

neering and revolutionary talent of Dumas had a 
much greater interest in what it said than in how it 
said it. If there was a certain thing to be spoken, 
a certain moral departure to be made, to this the 
younger Dumas applied himself with a frank per- 
tmacity which thought very little of mere form. 

Those who knew the second Alexandre per- 
sonally combine in presenting to us certain traits 
which are consistent with what we possess of his 
work. When they tell us of his bold and pene- 
trating eyes, his broad shoulders pushing through 
the crowd, his loud, eager voice that insisted upon 
attention and easily gained it, when they describe 
how he laid down the law, and argued in and out 
of season, and stared a new acquaintance out of 
countenance while he was hammering away at his 
point of view, we realize how like his books the 
man must have been. In all French literature 
there is so great a tendency toward charm, for its 
own sake, that we are scarcely prepared, at first, to 
take at his own valuation a writer who is fired 
with so proselytizing an ardour of conviction, at- 
tended often by so much ignorance and prejudice, 
and by so little of the desire to please, as Dumas. 
We find ourselves wondering where the magic lay, 
since magic there unquestionably was, in his prob- 
lems and sensations. But his force grows upon 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

us as we study him. We come at last to under- 
stand why he holds so uncontested a place in the 
development of European, or at all events of 
Latin, civilization. 

The keynote to a comprehension of all these 
vehement romances and prefaces and plays is the 
moral temperament of the author. He was a 
very close observer of life, and he was born into 
the world with disadvantages which would have 
made him a very sour observer, if he had not also 
been extremely lucky, and if he had not been 
almost immediately relieved from anxiety by ex- 
ceptional good fortune. But he was not so re- 
lieved too soon to have noticed, with his native 
clairvoyance, that less lucky people are exposed to 
a system of social disability which can prove so 
irksome to them as to destroy the pleasure of life 
altogether. So, on behalf of these exceptionally 
luckless persons, the exceptionally lucky Dumas 
early decided to be a propagandist. He was born 
to look upon literature as the natural weapon of a 
modern man, but he scorned to use the pen for 
personal objects only. His great father, le plre 
prodigue, had been all for self ; Alexandre the 
second, in his odd way, would be all for others. 
He became, as we put it, " conscious of a mission." 
In one of his prefaces — speaking of the didactic 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

elements in his work — he says quite clearly : " I 
have received from my conscience a mandate to 
write in this particular way, on this special class 
of subjects." To him, to write HEtranglre or 
L! Affaire CUmenceau was an "action." On the 
psychology of all this M. Paul Bourget has dis- 
coursed with the most delicate discrimination. 
But all we must pause to say here on the subject 
is that Dumas fils must be read as one who was a 
moralist above all things, as a man who saw errors 
in the social scheme, and passionately desired to 
correct them. It was no doubt a secret sense of 
this vivid moral sensibility that so irresistibly 
arrested the attention of his contemporaries. 
Nowadays, the conditions being in many cases 
corrected, it adds a difficulty to the sympathetic 
study of his books. 

There is a general impression that the novels 
of the younger Dumas are few and short ; on the 
contrary, they are extremely numerous and many 
of them are particularly long. But in a less 
pedantic sense, it is correct to say that he is not 
the author of more than two or three works of 
prose fiction, since the vast majority of his novels 
are as negligible as they certainly are neglected. 
In his precocious and untrained youth, he lived in 
close relations with that ebullient and absurd man 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

of genius, his prodigal father. The elder Dumas 
was pouring forth novels as from — what indeed it 
too truly was — a factory, and the son, in his turn, 
covered reams of paper with his extravagant in- 
ventions. The novel was the easiest and the most 
obvious gate by which he could enter that city of 
literature which had been his dream from boy- 
hood. His ignorance of life was amazing, but his 
confidence and cheery dogmatism were equal to it. 
The novels of the youth of Dumas are now 
scarcely literary curiosities, but they demand a few 
words of general analysis. The earliest of them, 
Adventures of Four Women and a Parrakeet, has 
the amazing high spirits of youth, wedded to the 
peculiar romance affected by the author's father. 
It is, to be frank, entirely unreadable. It was 
promptly followed by a series of books, not quite 
so primitive, of which Life at Twenty is a typical 
(and fortunately a short) example. In all these 
books, for those who care to seek it, there is de- 
picted Life (with a capital letter) as observed with 
the affected insipidity of a buck of 1845. The 
types of these novels are '' sceptiques par genre'' \ 
they admit that the only thing in the universe that 
is really elegant or witty is to believe in neither 
God nor woman. These books, scribbled by lamp- 
light on the steps of the opera-house, are mere 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

chains of anecdotes, linked together by smart con- 
versation and a prodigious wealth of highfalutin' 
sentiment. The misfortune in them all is that the 
author has no great fund of native imagination. 
At no period of his life was Dumas an inventor. 
To be successful he needed to tell what he had 
seen, and until he wrote The Lady of the Camel- 
lias he had seen practically nothing but the fash- 
ionable young man of the period. 

The heroes of the early novels of Dumas fils 
are always twenty-four years of age ; they have 
brown eyes, dark complexions, curly black hair, 
white teeth, pretty hands, and small feet. They 
wear voluminous paletots and walk with a cer- 
tain flowing swagger and open-breasted elegance. 
They are never seen unless one graceful hand is 
modelled in a pearl-gray glove, while the other 
swings loosely, involved in the nice conduct of a 
clouded cane. They are proud, quick, frivolous, 
sentimental, and umbrageous ; they always say 
" Maman!" with a catch in their voices, when they 
recollect their mothers. They are excessively 
affectionate to young ladies who do not always 
deserve their care. They earn eighty francs a 
month by writing in archaeological reviews, and 
they spend this rich stipend in immense cigars. 
When they have bought too many cigars, they rc- 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

tire to a castle in the woods and live for days 
upon one penny loaf. In the course of time they 
marry, and while retaining a " bouche rose et 
fraicJie comme celle d'nne fem7ne" they spoil the 
effect of it by wearing long Piccadilly whiskers 
and a tall white hat. They are consummately ab- 
surd, and they give the impression of a certain in- 
nocence in the pursuit of pleasure which is as 
captivating as the tune of a Barbary organ heard a 
long way off. 

But Dumas came after the great romantzqzies 
had risen to their zenith and were preparing to 
decline. He was never really romantic, and after 
he grew tired of recording the silly little loves of 
Amanda and Antonia, he broke away from the 
influence of his father. He was among the young 
writers of France who earliest comprehended the 
importance of the moral reflections which struck 
across the poetry of the romantic age from the 
writings of George Sand and of Michelet. He 
began to wish to be a realist, that he might come 
nearer to the ideas which he already dimly saw 
were to be his beacons. This tendency to realism, 
or, in other words, to exact observation, was of 
immense value to him. It saved him from intel- 
lectual shipwreck ; it cured him of his absence of 
equilibrium and his obscurity. He learned by im- 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

pact with life and by revulsion against the pre- 
posterous rodomontade of the hour, that the heart 
alone, sensitive and unbiassed, can point the road 
to moral truth. He dropped the tiresome ele- 
ments of his early style, and in particular the 
fatuous solemnity in facetiousness, which had been 
so wearisome. He reformed his caricatures of 
society ; for his chained anecdotes he substituted 
the evolution of a single story. A fiery com- 
passion for those who suffer, although they have 
not acted ill, became more and more an instinct 
with him. 

Before, however, his genius became adult, and 
thrilled Europe from one end to the other by a 
succession of magnificent dramas, it continued 
for some time to express itself by certain novels, 
which are neither so empty as the author's legion 
of early romances nor worthy to be named along- 
side the two transcendent books with which he 
has permanently enriched French fiction. Of 
these transitional stories, the best known is Diane 
de Lys, which has preserved a certain popularity. 
This tale may be read with interest as an example 
of the degree to which the mind of Dumas be- 
came absolutely subservient to dramatic ideas. 
Diane de Lys is a novel only in external form ; 
in spirit it is purely a study for the stage, a series 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

of artificially conceived incidents arranged for 
dramatic business, and written down, one would 
say, for no other purpose than to aid the play- 
wright in preparing his scenario. Effective as it 
has been behind the foot-lights, the plot of Diane 
de Lys will hardly bear reading to-day, and will 
certainly not bear telling in any detail, simply 
because the author has not taken the trouble to 
attend to the most elementary probabilities. There 
is a marquise, Diane de Lys, who is insufferably 
bored at home, and who, from sheer e^inui, ac- 
cepts an intrigue with a certain Baron Maximilien, 
who is one of Dumas's typical young dudes — white 
teeth, black curls, small feet, and the rest of it. 
They hold their assignations in the studio, kindly 
lent them for the purpose — on the Box and Cox 
principle — by a struggling but extremely gifted 
painter, Paul Aubrey. The point of the whole 
thing is that Diane de Lys, having an empty heart 
and an idle mind, falls in love with the idea of 
Paul Aubrey, of whom she has never seen even 
a portrait. The painter is understood to be Du- 
mas's conception of himself, such an adventure 
having once occurred to him in the gallant days 
of his youth, when he was pursued over half of 
Europe by the eccentric and beautiful Countess 
Lydie de Nesselrode. 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

The stories of which Diane de Lys is a type 
are not to be recommended to readers to-day, 
who will do better to pass at once to the drama- 
tization of these and their parallels. But they 
are interesting to the critic, as showing the mode 
in which the mind of Dumas was working out 
that extreme originality in the observation of life 
which was to be his main characteristic. The 
absurdities in Diane de Lys — the heroine falls in 
love with Paul Aubrey after reading a letter to 
his mother, which she has stolen out of the pocket 
of his painting coat ; and she has a virtuous friend 
who acts throughout " for the best," as people 
say, but in a manner which would justify her re- 
moval to a lunatic asylum — these very absurdities 
are due to the process of growth in the author's 
mind. He is in the act of becoming a very great 
master on purely theatrical lines, and, engaged 
in his problems, he neglects, for the time being, 
the carpentering of the scenes he begins so boldly 
to throw together. And after all, if we call the 
sketch for Diane de Lys a novel, what we see 
in it is a Dumas who is on his way to be a 
very great master of another art than fiction. 
He is the writer of moral dramas, who is very 
soon to produce such comedies as Dcnisc and 
Francillon, and to be the only modern French 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

dramatist fit to be mentioned in the same hour 
with MoHere. 

But it is with another Dumas the Younger 
that we have to deal to-day. It is unquestionable 
that in his novels he did not, as a rule, attain to 
anything like the same beauty of form that he 
reached in his plays. But among so many failures 
and half-successes, there stand out two romances 
from the pen of Dumas which are admirable in 
the absolute sense. Twice he contrived, by sheer 
sincerity and intentness of purpose, to rise above all 
the inconveniences — for such he considered them 
— which fence about the structure of the novel. 
Twice he was strong enough to compose works in 
prose fiction which had the force, and passion, and 
unity of his best dramatic masterpieces. When 
we speak of the younger Dumas as a novelist, we 
think of two books — of The Lady of the Camel- 
lias, the novel of his youth, and of The CUmen- 
ceau Case, the novel of his maturity. In these 
two books he spoke to the w^hole world, and he 
still is speaking. He denounces in each of these 
books one of the two errors of society which 
came home to him most acutely — the harshness 
which excludes the woman of pleasure in her 
decline from the natural consolations of pity, and 
the cruelty which avenges on the nameless child 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

the egotism and error of its father. In either 
case we miss the point of the novelist if we fail 
to see that his central note is a tender humanity. 
Dumas is loud, strident, sometimes hard and 
rough, but he is always dominated by "love for 
the lovely who are not beloved." Everywhere 
the ruling quality of pity makes itself felt. On 
this feature of his WTiting he has himself made 
an observation which may be taken as the epigraph 
of all his literary labours. He says — in one of 
his splendid prefaces, in that to La Femme de 
Claude — that when he began to feel his powers 
ripen within him, he sought for the point at 
which the faculty of observation, with which he 
felt he was endowed, could be made to produce 
most fruit, not merely for himself, but for others. 
He found it at once. With something of the 
glow of the mystic, with something rapturous 
that takes him from the side of Ibsen to place 
him at the right hand of Tolstoi, he exclaims : 
" Ce point — c'^tait I'amour." 

Of the two great novels, we will take the later 
first, since dates have unusually little importance 
in the work of Dumas Jils. L Affaire CUmen- 
ceau was published in 1864, and it produced at its 
first appearance a sensation which it is now diffi- 
cult to reconstitute. Up to that time the prin- 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

ciples of naturalism were scarcely developed, 
although France was ripe to receive them. Zola 
and Alphonse Daudet had given no sign of the 
ultimate tendency of their work ; the Goncourts 
were carefully preparing the field for the harvest 
of the seventies. But if we compare such a book 
as Rend Mauperin, which belongs to the same 
year, with L Affaire CUmenceau, we can perceive 
the difference of appeal to the public. The style 
of Dumas was never delicate, like that of the 
Goncourts, nor did he sound very deeply into the 
abyss of personality. But Dumas spoke with a 
voice which every one was obliged to listen to. 
It is amusing, after nearly forty years, to turn to 
the original criticism of L! Affaire Cldmenceau. 
Even those who admired it most were shocked 
at what they called its " breathless realism." They 
were embarrassed, while they applauded ; they 
seemed to deprecate their own contemplation of 
so naked a movement of life. And even to day, 
after so many years in which each young bravo of 
the pen has sought to outdo the last in audacity, 
the Affaire can not be read without a certain 
troublous emotion. 

The CUmenceau Case is the defence drawn 
up in prison by Pierre Cldmenceau, a French 
sculptor, who is accused of murdering his wife, 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

a Pole, whose name was Iza Dobronowska. In 
order to set his soul right before his judges and 
the world, the man writes his life from the be- 
ginning, aiming to show that in the turbulence 
and irony of events, and battered by the terrible 
sorrows which have befallen him, he could have 
done nothing else than "execute" his wife. This 
form of a plaidoyer, or defence, gives a writer 
of the temper of Dumas great advantages, since, 
without any loss of verisimilitude, he can omit 
whatever does not interest him, or emphasize what- 
ever excites him. The whole novel is a vast and 
magnificent pamphlet, and, dealing as it does with 
violent and open moral obliquity, it is only right 
to say that, with all the author's Latin license of 
phrase, we never question for a moment that he 
brings two cognate issues before us — a sincere 
hatred of sin, and a pitiful tenderness for the 

All the world knows, for he never pretended to 
conceal the fact, that the author of L Affaire Cle- 
menceau was a natural child. The earlier portions 
of the novel have an extraordinary interest from 
the minuteness of the picture they give of the life 
of a boy brought into the world with this social 
disadvantage. It is known that they form an auto- 
biographical record of the discomforts which the 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

youthful Alexandre suffered from in his early 
school-days. We are told by Pierre Cl^menceau 
that his mother kept a millinery establishment, 
where he was brought up in comfort and happi- 
ness, until the time came when he had to go to 
school. We follow him to the fashionable pen- 
sion to which his mother has the ambition to 
send him, and where he soon finds the intolerable 
discomfort of not being able to say what his father 
" does " — it being quite unknown to him whether 
his father is alive or dead, and even what his name 
is, since he bears his mother's surname only. It is 
now known that the experiences of Pierre were 
copied closely from those of his creator. The 
young Alexandre was sent at the age of nine 
to the Pension St. Victor, which was the larg- 
est, most fashionable, and least-disciplined private 
school in Paris. It was kept by a certain M. 
Goubeaux, an educational theorist of some note in 
that day, who lacked the moral and physical force 
to keep his school in order. He was aware of the 
social disability of his latest dark-eyed pupil, and 
a very amiable story is told of him. When a re- 
port reached Paris that the elder Dumas had been 
killed while travelling in Sicily, M. Goubeaux 
called the boy into his parlour, and said that if this 
proved to be true, he was in future to consider 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

himself his son. This schoolmaster is the M. 
Fr^min of the novel. 

The lad left the Pension St. Victor at the age of 
fifteen, having undergone in early years something 
like the persecution and ostracism of which he 
gives so moving an account. But before he was 
called to face the world an event occurred which 
altered his prospects. His father one day sur- 
prised him in the deep study of a book, which the 
boy endeavoured to conceal. The father insisted 
on seeing what it was, and to his surprise discov- 
ered the Emile of Rousseau. " Do you find any- 
thing there to interest you?" "Much," replied 
the child, with a certain determination. " Well, 
give me your impressions." " I think Emile 
showed courage." "How?" "When a father 
refuses to give his son his name — " said the 
child, and stopped. " Well ? well ?" cried Dumas. 
"Then the son ought to take it." "Ah!" ex- 
claimed the great Alexandre, who until that time 
had never openly acknowledged the relationship 
between them; "you rascal, you wish to use my 
name, then, do you ? Well, then, for the future 
use it, and let's say no more about it ! " At this 
point, then, the author of L Affaire CUnie7iceau 
parts company from his Pierre, for, openly ac- 
knowledged by his father, who gave him plenty 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

of money to spend, and who loved to see himself 
accompanied everywhere by the " demi-ethiopian 
charm " of this handsome son with his curly head 
and melting Creole eyes, the life of the younger 
Alexandre became a delightful one. But his im- 
agination enabled him to pursue the misfortunes 
of a natural son less unusually lucky than himself. 
No one, however, should study the first half of the 
L Affaire CUmenceaji without reading, as a per- 
sonal corrective, the royal tribute to his magnifi- 
cent parent, which forms such a purple passage in 
the preface to Le Fits Naturel. 

Pierre Cl^menceau is handsome, strong, and 
pure. His isolation has even been an advantage 
to him, for he has grown up in a noble solitude of 
soul, with serene ambitions. He will be a sculp- 
tor, and he discovers a marked predisposition to 
this fine profession. But he is weak on the side of 
experience, and his unsullied ideality exposes him 
to be the dupe of an unworthy adventuress. At 
a vulgar bal travesti, he meets a Polish girl, still 
almost a child, who accompanies her mother, the 
Countess Dobronowska, in the dress of a page. 
The account of this couple, of the ball at which 
they appear, of their behaviour, and of their 
tawdry lodging, forms one of the finest descriptive 
passages in the writings of Dumas. The Poles 

t> 2 xxi 

The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

disappear from Paris, but the young sculptor — 
who meanwhile becomes famous — retains his in- 
fatuation for the child, whom, now grown a lovely- 
woman, he finally invites to Paris, and marries. 
Iza, a muddy soul in a marble body, at first loves 
Pierre after her kind, but she is radically sensual, 
graceless, and hateful. She plays upon his cre- 
dulity, and fools him to the top of her bent. At 
last, quite suddenly, and long after the more per- 
spicacious reader has perceived her wickedness, 
Pierre wakes up to her infamy, and drives her 
from his house. He goes to live in Rome that he 
may forget her ; but she has entered, like a poison, 
into his bones, and he can not dismiss her from his 
mind. He returns to Paris, to find her living in 
splendour, the mistress of a foreign king, and he 
quietly kills her. 

It is in this novel that several of the most cele- 
brated formulas of Dumas are first stated. In the 
early pages we meet with the " recherche de la 
paternity ^' which has since become so famous. 
The end of the book is a statement of the Tue-la, 
which became more famous still in the shuddering 
denouement of L Homme- Femme and La Femme 
de Claude. M. Anatole France, who is some- 
thing of a Gallio in these grave matters, has de- 
tected the germ of weakness in such excess of 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

strength. He has pointed out that Pierre Cl^- 
menceau is too good for this world, or too bad, 
and that, however splendid his intentions, he re- 
mains neither more nor less than a murderer. 
" Oest un ouvrage stupide que d' assassiner une 
femme.'* So, indeed, it seems to an Anglo-Saxon 
mind, which is pleased to find a supporter so bril- 
liant as M. France ; the fact being that many of 
the moral axioms of the younger Dumas are none 
the less sincere and remarkable for being almost 
exclusively addressed to the Latin conscience. It 
is very difficult, without excess of phraseology and 
tiresome circumlocution, to express in English 
just what his position with regard to women is, 
since it is formed out of antagonistic elements — 
pity and hatred, tender desire and contemptuous 
loathing, anger and sympathy and shame. Such a 
denunciation of women as is found in the long and 
brilliantly written tirade of Constantin toward the 
end of L Affaire CUmenceau is as good an ex- 
ample as could be found of the chasm which 
divides the Latin from the Anglo-Saxon race on 
questions of sentiment. 

Who shall explain by what necromancy Dumas 
contrived, among the tedious and confused novels 
of his earliest youth, all of which have been long 
forgotten, to produce one romance which has be- 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

come one of the permanent treasures of the 
French language and an unquestioned classic ? 
Why is that fortune reserved for the Lady of the 
Camellias which was immediately and finally de- 
nied to Tristan de Roux and TJie Silver Box} 
Mainly, no doubt, because, as we remarked before, 
Dumas is not a great inventor, and could not be 
successful until he took to telling simply, clearly, 
poignantly what he had seen with his eyes and felt 
with his heart. He had been born into a bad tra- 
dition ; he had formed the impression that a 
mountebank thing of rouge and tinsel, which was 
called the " romantic novel," was the proper ob- 
ject for a young man of letters to concentrate his 
powers upon. A general florid looseness, a vague 
acceptance of types, suited best with this spurious 
kind of fiction. But Dumas Jils required the very 
opposite of this to stimul-^te his invention. He 
was not mindful of the type ; by temperament he 
was drawn to the study of sharply defined in- 
stances and striking exceptional cases. It was out 
of the impassioned contemplation of one of these 
that the marvellous story of The Lady of the 
Camellias arose. 

The heroine of this book was closely studied 
from a real person, prominent perhaps in her day, 
but who owes her immortality entirely to the 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

author's partiality. She was of the same age as 
Dumas, having been born in 1824. She was a 
farmer's daughter, and her baptismal name was 
Alphonsine Plessis ; as something flat and vulgar 
rings to a French ear in " Alphonsine," she early- 
exchanged it for Marie. Her career was, in the 
main, exactly that of Marguerite Gautier in the 
story, and the curious incident of her having at- 
tracted the attention of a duke, at Spa, through 
her extraordinary resemblance to his dying daugh- 
ter, is §aid to be historic. It was only the episode 
of Marguerite's momentous sacrifice for the sake 
of Armand which Dumas would confess that he 
had invented, and this he said that Marie Plessis 
would have made — if she had ever been given the 
opportunity. Dumas seems to have seen her first 
when he came back from the Mediterranean after 
his first long journey with his father ; she was then 
at the summit of her capricious beauty, and the 
impression she made on the youth of twenty was 

To the second edition of the Lady of the 
Camellias, Jules Janin contributed a preface, now 
generally reprinted with it, in which he added 
some interesting details as to the charm of Marie 
Plessis. What the relations of Dumas himself 
to her were he had the rather surprising good 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

taste not, so far as I remember, to record. But 
the recollection of her rare qualities remained 
with him singularly vivid. More than twenty 
years after her death, he drew a brilliant little por- 
trait of her, which is worthy to be added to our 
impression of the book. Marie Plessis, he said — 
looking back across Marguerite Gautier to her re- 
moter prototype — "was tall, very slight, with 
black hair, and a pink and white complexion. 
Her head was small ; she had long enamelled eyes, 
like a Japanese woman's, but they were sparkling 
and alert. Her lips were ruddier than the cherr)^ 
her teeth were the prettiest in the world ; she 
looked like a little figure made of Dresden china." 
With the heroine of the novel, Marie Plessis was 
early attacked by pulmonary disease, which height- 
ened her beauty at first in the mirage of its hectic 
flush ; and then, in 1847, at the age of twenty- 
three, she died. Her gaiety and courage in the 
face of approaching death seem to have astonished 
every one. 

It may be advanced that the evidence we pos- 
sess with regard to the character of Marie Plessis 
is not of the most trustworthy order. It is, we 
must confess, mainly supplied by ardent young 
men who were in love with her from afar off, 
moths in the candle of her transitory brightness. 


i H ) K 1 HALT O F MAH 1 L 1 ) \ PLl ".S S I S 

Tlw (iriLji/iLil <'/■ ~Lt7 /hi/iw tili.f i'lniii'/lil^''' 

The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

But there seems to have been something singu- 
larly winning about her. Janin said of her that 
** I'ennui a ete le grand mal de sa vie." This is 
rendered in Dumas's novel, where we find ex- 
pressed, as perhaps nowhere else, the intolerable 
weariness of what is called " a life of pleasure," its 
emptiness and insipidity, the irritability and incon- 
sistency it produces in sensitive natures. We are 
told of Marie Plessis, as of Marguerite Gautier, 
that what she wished for, above all things, was to 
be alone, to be in silence, to be calm, to be be- 
loved ; and one sees that the irony of her exist- 
ence was that it resembled that of a small, bril- 
liant macaw in the parrot-house of the Zoological 
Gardens. She seems to have had many amiable 
traits. Dumas, looking back upon her, after her 
poor fragile body had lain for a generation in the 
grave, said : " Elle fut une des dernieres et des 
seules courtisanes qui eurent du coeur," and to this 
tenderness of heart he attributes, perhaps too senti- 
mentally, her early death. Janin tells us that she 
hated to disturb family relationships, and that she 
was no less benevolent than whimsical. Every- 
body praised her tact and grace, and we are as- 
sured that on occasion she could be disinterested. 
Without the least effort, we can build up an im- 
pression of Marie Plessis, a sort of prose version 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

of Marguerite Gautier, very ephemeral but very 
captivating, and after more than half a century 
still a bewitching type of lovely woman who has 
stooped to folly, but is not wholly foolish. 

It is amusing to note that the appellation 
under which Dumas has made this unhappy girl 
famous was a pure invention of his own. Marie 
(or Alphonsine) Plessis is not known to have 
shown the smallest partiality for camellias. Dumas 
created the notion, which has affected the fancy of 
so many thousands of readers, that in her extreme 
and moribund refinement his heroine could not en- 
dure the odour of flowers, and therefore selected 
these, equally sumptuous and scentless, to form 
her sole ornament. It is an amusing instance of 
the reflex action of literature upon life that 
when in process of time a tomb came to be 
raised to Alphonsine Plessis in the cemetery of 
Montmartre, a garland of camellias, carved out of 
white marble, formed an essential part of the 
decoration. This is a proof, if one were wanted, 
of the extraordinary vogue of the story, which 
was written in 1847, immediately after the death 
of the poor girl, and while Dumas was still throb- 
bing with the emotion of it. It was published in 
1848, and was not instantly successful ; some time 
passed before the general public was roused to ob- 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

serve what a masterpiece the too-abundant young 
novelist had, for once, managed to turn out. 
Already, in 1849, Dumas had seen the theatrical 
possibilities of the piece, and had dramatized it, 
but almost insuperable difficulties barred the way 
to its performance. At last, on the 2d of Febru- 
ary, 1852, it was acted on the stage of the Vaude- 
ville, and started on a career of glory which is 
certainly not yet closed. 

It is very difficult to bring the work of the 
younger Dumas within any of our customary 
aesthetic definitions. He is an artist by the bright- 
ness and sharpness with which the detail of his 
best writings is executed, but it is impossible not 
to feel that he treated this as a secondary affair, as 
a means of inducing an idle world to stop and 
listen to what he had to say. And when we, also, 
concentrate our attention on what Dumas has to 
say, we perceive that he stands alone, or almost 
alone, in modern French literature. He is a 
prophet-moralist ; he is with Carlyle, and Ibsen, 
and Tolstoi. But he is far less vague than the 
first of these, and less inquisitive than the second. 
Mere prophetic denunciation and mere psycholog- 
ical curiosity are not enough for the eminently 
lucid, practical, and active temperament of Dumas. 

He is at one with Ibsen and Carlyle in thinking 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

that mankind is gone astray, but he separates him- 
self from them, and forms a kind of alliance with 
Tolstoi, in not being satisfied until he has sug- 
gested a remedy. He presents to us a fer\'ent 
Latin type of the philosopher who sees that life 
is full of crookedness and who would like to pull 
it straight. 

The parallelism of Tolstoi and Dumas does 
not go far. The latter is capable of a Femme de 
Claiide, but he shrinks from a Kreutzer So?tata. 
He has no approval for ascetic renunciation, and 
the translucent common sense which he brings to 
bear on social problems saves him from recom- 
mending obscure sacrificial forms of mysticism. 
To minds brought up on the Puritan system the 
absence of abstract doctrine must always make 
Dumas seem unmoral, for we have been trained 
for centuries to regard no mode of existence 
wholly admirable w^hich is not founded upon 
physical abnegation. That Dumas is never dis- 
tinctly religious must be another source of diffi- 
culty. We are accustomed to deal with attacks 
on faith, but not with an apparent ignorance of its 
existence. Charity is Dumas's religion, and he 
would remould the surface of society by a strict 
attention to the text, " Little children, love one 

The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

Dumas suffers acutely at the aspect of moral 
pain, and he inculcates pity of it. He does not 
wish human beings to live like Carmelites, nor, 
with the later Tolstoi, does he propose to cut off 
all cakes and ale. Toward the end of his career, 
like all spiritual teachers who dwell upon a single 
bunch of theories, he grew more and more severe. 
He preached, as somebody said, the gospel of 
chastisement and revoked the pardon of the weep- 
ing Magdalen. The worst of his theories was 
their narrowness. One can not go on forever feel- 
ing indignation about the iniquities of the Code 
Napoleon. His earnestness was never in doubt, 
but his seriousness sometimes. In the succession 
of plays and pamphlets with which he bombarded 
the pleasure-houses of Paris from Les Iddes de 
Madame Atibray in 1867 to Francillon in 1887, 
Dumas posed as a kind of fashionable Boadicea, 
threatening to "cut the Roman boy to pieces in 
his lust and voluptuousness, and lash the maiden 
into swooning," but never quite carrying out this 
fell program, through sheer good-nature, and 
through sympathy with those who are accustomed 
to drink in cups of emerald and lie at tables of 
ebony. Let us admit again that he is with diffi- 
culty appreciated, in the fulness of his work, by 

the logical and unsympathetic Anglo-Saxon mind. 


The Novels of Dumas the Younger 

He has a conscience, and a very sensitive one, but 
we must not hope to approximate it to our formi- 
dable friend, " the nonconformist conscience." Yet 
even a Puritan can read with pity and ruth his 
beautiful, melancholy, passionate story of an un- 
happy woman whose faults were great and her mis- 
fortunes greater. 



Alexandre Dumas fils was born on the 28th of 
June, 1824, in Paris ; he was the natural son of 
Marie Catherine Teblay, a Belgian sempstress, who 
was living at No. /, Place des Italiens. She 
brought him up with great care, and he was edu- 
cated in several Parisian private schools ; in par- 
ticular, from i8jj to i8jg he was taught at the 
well-known Pension St. Victor. After leaving this 
pension, he entered the College Bourbon, where he 
highly distinguished himself. While he was being 
educated there, the great Alexandre Dumas ac- 
knowledged that the boy was his natural son, and 
on his leaving college tindertook his charge, and 
for some time made hifn his constant companion. 
His taste for literature showed itself without any 
of his talent in his first book, a volume of verses 
entitled '' Pichis de Jeunesse^' which were '' full of 
candour and inexperience!' After this he accom- 
panied his father o?i his travels in Spain and 


Life of Dumas the Younger 

north Africa. O71 his rettir?i from the grand 
tour, he published, in iS^y, his earliest novel, 
''Aventtires de quatres Fenimes et d'un Per ro- 
quet.'' He 7tow plunged violejitly into literature, 
composing, in 1848, besides the fatuous '' Da^ne aux 
Camdlias^' two other novels, ''La Roman d'u7ie 
Femme " and '' C^sarine." In 184^ he followed up 
these by '' Le Docteur Servans" and ''Anto7iine." 
His other early roma7ices are " Trois Ho77i77ies 
Forts'' a7id ''Tristan le Roux," both of 18^0 ; 
"Diane de Lys," 18^1 ; " Sophie Pri7itemps^' 
1 8 S3; ''La Boite d'Arge7tt," 1855; a7id "Vie a 
Vingt A71S," 18 §6. Meanwhile, in 18 §2, "La 
Dame aux Ca7ndias " appeared as a dra77ia, and 
enjoyed a great sticcess. Dumas was gradually 
draw7i away fro77t the 7iovel to the stage. His 
play of "Dia7ie de Lys" was produced i7i 18^3, 
and "La Bijou de la Rei7ie," a co77iedy i7i verse, 
co7nposed ten years before, i7i 18^5- The same 
year saw the performance of " Le Demi-monde." 
The career of DiL77tas is al77iost wholly comprised 
i7i a list of his pri7icipal publicatio7is and p7'oduc- 
tions, for he took no part in active life a7id 
remained stationary in Paris, absorbed in his lit- 
erary U7idertaki7igs. His early plays i7iclude " Le 
Fits Naturei;' 1838; "Le Plre Prodigue" 1839; 
"L'Ami des Fe77i77ies" 1864; "Le Supplice d'u?ie 


Life of Dumas the Younger 

Femme" i86^; "" Heloise Pai^ajiquei" 1866; and 
"' Les Iddes de Madame Atibray" j86y. Mean- 
while, in 1864, appeared the novel, " L Affaire 
Cl^menceau" dramatized in 1866. Dumas, who 
had overworked hifiiself, was nozv silent for a 
little while, but created a sensation in iSyi with 
two powerful plays, ''La Princess Georges^' and 
''Une Visite de Noces.'' To these, in 18'jj, suc- 
ceeded ''La Femme de Claude" ajtd "Monsieur 
Alphojise," leading up to the striking drama of 
"LEtranglre" in 18'/'/. Meanwhile, Dumas, who 
had bee7i elected to the French Academy in Janu- 
ary, 18 J 4, was awakening the echoes of Paris with 
his brilliant controversial pamphlets, which cuhii- 
nated, in 1880, in " Le Question du Divorce" aiid 
" Les Femmes qui tuejtt et les Femmes qui votent." 
Dumas s latest plays were "La Princesse de 
Bagdad" 188 1 ; " Denise," 188 § ; a?td " Fra7icil- 
lon" i88y. During the war of 18'jo Dumas 
retired to a little estate which he had bought, on 
the road between Puys and Dieppe. Here he 
offered an asylum to his illustrious and now dying 
father, whose last hours he soothed with infinite 
care. He himself continued to divide his tifjie 
between Puys a7id a house near Paris, at Marly- 
le-Roi, where he died on the 2'/th of November, 




The Novels of Alexandre Dumas the 

Younger v-xxxii 

Edmund Gosse 

Life of Alexandre Dumas the Younger . xxxiii-xxxv 

Edmund Gosse 

The Lady of the Camellias ^-Z'^^ 

The Portraits of Dumas the Younger . 327—340 

Octave Uzanne 

Vol. 13—2 





In my opinion, it is impossible to create char- 
acters until one has spent a long time in studying 
men, as it is impossible to speak a language until 
it has been seriously acquired. Not being old 
enough to invent, I content myself with narrat- 
ing, and I beg the reader to assure himself of the 
truth of a story in which all the characters, with 
the exception of the heroine, are still alive. 
Eye-witnesses of the greater part of the facts 
which I have collected are to be found in Paris, 
and I might call upon them to confirm me if 
my testimony is not enough. And, thanks to a 
particular circumstance, I alone can write these 
things, for I alone am able to give the final 
details, without which it would have been impos- 
sible to make the story at once interesting and 

This is how these details came to my knowl- 
edge. On the 1 2th of March, 1847, I saw in the 
Rue Lafitte a great yellow placard announcing a 

The Lady of the Camellias 

sale of furniture and curiosities. The sale was to 
take place on account of the death of the owner. 
The owner's name was not mentioned, but the 
sale was to be held at 9, Rue d'Antin, on the 
1 6th, from 12 to 5. The placard further an- 
nounced that the rooms and furniture could be 
seen on the 13th and 14th. 

I have always been very fond of curiosities, 
and I made up my mind not to miss the occa- 
sion, if not of buying some, at all events of see- 
ing them. Next day I called at 9, Rue d'Antin. 

It was early in the day, and yet there were al- 
ready a number of visitors, both men and women, 
and the women, though they were dressed in cash- 
mere and velvet, and had their carriages waiting 
for them at the door, gazed with astonishment 
and admiration at the luxury which they saw be- 
fore them. 

I was not long in discovering the reason of this 
astonishment and admiration, for, having begun 
to examine things a little carefully, I discovered 
without difficulty that I was in the house of a 
kept woman. Now, if there is one thing which 
women in society would like to see (and there 
were society women there), it is the home of those 
women whose carriages splash their own carriages 
day by day, who, like them, side by side with 


The Lady of the Camellias 

them, have their boxes at the Opera and at the 
Italiens, and who parade in Paris the opulent 
insolence of their beauty, their diamonds, and 
their scandal. 

This one was dead, so the most virtuous of 
women could enter even her bedroom. Death 
had purified the air of this abode of splendid foul- 
ness, and if more excuse were needed, they had 
the excuse that they had merely come to a sale, 
they knew not whose. They had read the plac- 
ards, they wished to see what the placards had 
announced, and to make their choice beforehand. 
What could be more natural ? Yet, all the same, 
in the midst of all these beautiful things, they 
could not help looking about for some traces of 
this courtesan's life, of which they had heard, no 
doubt, strange enough stories. 

Unfortunately the mystery had vanished with 
the goddess, and, for all their endeavours, they dis- 
covered only what was on sale since the owner's 
decease, and nothing of what had been on sale 
during her Hfetime. For the rest, there were 
plenty of things worth buying. The furniture 
was superb ; there were rosewood and buhl cabi- 
nets and tables, Sevres and Chinese vases, Saxe 
statuettes, satin, velvet, lace ; there was nothing 


The Lady of the Camellias 

I sauntered through the rooms, following the 
inquisitive ladies of distinction. Th-ey entered a 
room with Persian hangings, and I was just going 
to enter in turn, when they came out again almost 
immediately, smiling, and as if ashamed of their 
own curiosity. I was all the more eager to see 
the room. It was the dressing-room, laid out 
with all the articles of toilet, in which the dead 
woman's extravagance seemed to be seen at its 

On a large table against the wall, a table three 
feet in width and six in length, glittered all the 
treasures of Aucoc and Odiot. It was a magnifi- 
cent collection, and there was not one of those 
thousand little things so necessary to the toilet 
of a woman of the kind which was not in gold or 
silver. Such a collection could only have been 
got together little by little, and the same lover 
had certainly not begun and ended it. 

Not being shocked at the sight of a kept 
woman's dressing-room, I amused myself with 
examining every detail, and I discovered that 
these magnificently chiselled objects bore differ- 
ent initials and different coronets. I looked at 
one after another, each recalling a separate shame, 
and I said that God had been merciful to the poor 
child, in not having left her to pay the ordinary 


The Lady of the Camellias 

penalty, but rather to die in tiie midst of her 
beauty and luxury, before the coming of old age, 
the courtesan's first death. 

Is there anything sadder in the world than the 
old age of vice, especially in woman ? She pre- 
serves no dignity, she inspires no interest. The 
everlasting repentance, not of the evil ways fol- 
lowed, but of the plans that have miscarried, the 
money that has been spent in vain, is as sadden- 
ing a thing as one can well meet with. I knew 
an aged woman who had once been ** gay," whose 
only link with the past was a daughter almost as 
beautiful as she herself had been. This poor 
creature to whom her mother had never said, 
" You are my child," except to bid her nourish her 
old age as she herself had nourished her youth, 
was called Louise, and, being obedient to her 
mother, she abandoned herself without volition, 
without passion, without pleasure, as she would 
have worked at any other profession that might 
have been taught her. 

The constant sight of dissipation, precocious 
dissipation, in addition to her constant sickly state, 
had extinguished in her mind all the knowledge 
of good and evil that God had perhaps given her, 
but that no one had ever thought of developing. 
I shall always remember her, as she passed along 


The Lady of the Camellias 

the boulevards almost every day at the same 
hour, accompanied by her mother as assiduously 
as a real mother might have accompanied her 
daughter. I was very young then, and ready to 
accept for myself the easy morality of the age. 
I remember, however, the contempt and disgust 
which awoke in me at the sight of this scandalous 
chaperoning. Her face, too, was inexpressibly 
virginal in its expression of innocence and of 
melancholy suffering. She was like a figure of 

One day the girl's face was transfigured. 
In the midst of all the debauches mapped out 
by her mother, it seemed to her as if God 
had left over for her one happiness. And why 
indeed should God, who had made her without 
strength, have left her without consolation, under 
the sorrowful burden of her life ? One day, then, 
she realized that she was to have a child, and all 
that remained to her of chastity leaped for joy. 
The soul has strange refuges. Louise ran to tell 
the good news to her mother. It is a shameful 
thing to speak of, but we are not telling tales of 
pleasant sins ; we are telling of true facts, which it 
would be better, no doubt, to pass over in silence, 
if we did not believe that it is needful from time 
to time to reveal the martyrdom of those who 


The Lady of the Camellias 

are condemned without hearing, scorned without 
judging ; shameful it is, but this mother answered 
the daughter that they had already scarce enough 
for two, and would certainly not have enough for 
three ; that such children are useless, and a lying- 
in is so much time lost. 

Next day a midwife, of whom all we will say 
is that she was a friend of the mother, visited 
Louise, who remained in bed for a few days, and 
then got up paler and feebler than before. 

Three months afterward a man took pity on 
her and tried to heal her, morally and physically ; 
but the last shock had been too violent, and Louise 
died of it. The mother still lives ; how ? God 

This story returned to my mind while I looked 
at the silver toilet things, and a certain space of 
time must have elapsed during these reflections, 
for no one was left in the room but myself and an 
attendant, who, standing near the door, was care- 
fully watching me to see that I did not pocket 

I went up to the man, to whom I was causing 
so much anxiety. " Sir," I said, " can you tell me 
the name of the person who formerly lived here ? " 

" Mademoiselle Marguerite Gautier." 

I knew her by name and by sight. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" What ! " I said to the attendant ; " Margue- 
rite Gautier is dead ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

"When did she die?" 

"Three weeks ago, I believe." 

" And why are the rooms on view ? " 

" The creditors believe that it will send up the 
prices. People can see beforehand the effect of 
the things ; you see that induces them to buy." 

" She was in debt, then ?" 

"To any extent, sir." 

" But the sale will cover it ?" 

"And more too." 

" Who will get what remains over?" 

" Her family." 

"She had a family?" 

" It seems so." 


The attendant, reassured as to my intentions, 
touched his hat, and I went out. 

" Poor girl ! " I said to myself as I returned 
home ; " she must have had a sad death, for, in her 
world, one has friends only when one is perfectly 
well." And in spite of myself I began to feel 
melancholy over the fate of Marguerite Gautier. 

It will seem absurd to many people, but I have 
an unbounded sympathy for women of this kind, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and I do not think it necessary to apologize for 
such sympathy. 

One day, as I was going to the Prefecture 
for a passport, I saw in one of the neighbour- 
ing streets a poor girl who was being marched 
along by two policemen. I do not know what 
was the matter. All I know is that she was weep- 
ing bitterly as she kissed an infant only a few 
months old, from whom her arrest was to separate 
her. Since that day I have never dared to despise 
a woman at first sight. 


The sale was to take place on the i6th. A 
day's interval had been left between the visiting 
days and the sale, in order to give time for taking 
down the hangings, curtains, etc. 

I had just returned from abroad. It was natu- 
ral that I had not heard of Marguerite's death 
among the pieces of news which one's friends 
always tell on returning after an absence. Mar- 
guerite was a pretty woman ; but though the life 
of such women makes sensation enough, their 
death makes very little. They are suns which set 
as they rose, unobserved. Their death, when they 
die young, is heard of by all their lovers at the 
same moment, for in Paris almost all the lovers of 
a well-known woman are friends. A few recollec- 
tions are exchanged, and everybody's life goes on 
as if the incident had never occurred, without so 
much as a tear. 

Nowadays, at twenty-five, tears have become 
so rare a thing that they are not to be squan- 
dered indiscriminately. It is the most that can 


The Lady of the Camellias 

be expected if the parents who pay for being wept 
over are wept over in return for the price they 

As for me, though my initials did not occur on 
any of Marguerite's belongings, that instinctive 
indulgence, that natural pity that I have already 
confessed, set me thinking over her death, more 
perhaps than it was worth thinking over. I re- 
membered having often met Marguerite in the 
Bois, where she went regularly every day in a 
little blue coupe drawn by two magnificent bays, 
and I had noticed in her a distinction quite apart 
from other women of her kind, a distinction which 
was enhanced by a really exceptional beauty. 

These unfortunate creatures whenever they go 
out are always accompanied by somebody or other. 
As no man cares to make himself conspicuous 
by being seen in their company, and as they are 
afraid of solitude, they take with them either those 
who are not well enough off to have a carriage, or 
one or another of those elegant, ancient ladies, 
whose elegance is a little inexplicable, and to 
whom one can always go for information in re- 
gard to the women whom they accompany. 

In Marguerite's case it was quite different. 
She was always alone when she drove in the 
Champs-Elys^es, lying back in her carriage as 

4 II 

The Lady of the Camellias 

much as possible, dressed in furs in winter, and 
in summer wearing very simple dresses ; and 
though she often passed people whom she knew, 
her smile, when she chose to smile, was seen only 
by them, and a duchess might have smiled in just 
such a manner. She did not drive to and fro like 
the others, from the Rond-Point to the end of the 
Champs-Elys^es. She drove straight to the Bois. 
There she left her carriage, walked for an hour, 
returned to her carriage, and drove rapidly home. 

All these circumstances which I had so often 
witnessed came back to my memory, and I re- 
gretted her death as one might regret the destruc- 
tion of a beautiful work of art. 

It was impossible to see more charm in beauty 
than in that of Marguerite. Excessively tall and 
thin, she had in the fullest degree the art of repair- 
ing this oversight of Nature by the mere arrange- 
ment of the things she wore. Her cashmere 
reached to the ground, and showed on each side 
the large flounces of a silk dress, and the heavy 
muff which she held pressed against her bosom 
was surrounded by such cunningly arranged folds 
that the eye, however exacting, could find no fault 
with the contour of the lines. Her head, a mar- 
vel, was the object of the most coquettish care. 
It was small, and her mother, as Musset would 


The Lady of the Camellias 

say, seemed to have made it so in order to make 
it with care. 

Set, in an oval of indescribable grace, two 
black eyes, surmounted by eyebrows of so pure a 
curve that it seemed as if painted ; veil these eyes 
with lovely lashes, which, when drooped, cast their 
shadow on the rosy hue of the cheeks ; trace a 
delicate, straight nose, the nostrils a little open, 
in an ardent aspiration toward the life of the 
senses ; design a regular mouth, with lips parted 
graciously over teeth as white as milk ; colour 
the skin with the down of a peach that no hand 
has touched, and you will have the general aspect 
of that charming countenance. The hair, black as 
jet, waving naturally or not, was parted on the 
forehead in two large folds and draped back over 
the head, leaving in sight just the tip of the ears, 
in which there glittered two diamonds, worth four 
to five thousand francs each. How it was that 
her ardent life had left on Marguerite's face the 
virginal, almost childlike expression, which char- 
acterized it, is a problem which we can but state, 
without attempting to solve it. 

Marguerite had a marvellous portrait of her- 
self, by Vidal, the only man whose pencil could do 
her justice. I had this portrait by me for a few 
days after her death, and the likeness was so as- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

tonishing that it has helped to refresh my mem- 
ory in regard to some points which I might not 
otherwise have remembered. 

Some among the details of this chapter did 
not reach me until later, but I write them here 
so as not to be obliged to return to them when 
the story itself has begun. 

Marguerite was always present at every first 
night, and passed every evening either at the the- 
atre or the ball. Whenever there was a new piece 
she was certain to be seen, and she invariably had 
three things with her on the ledge of her ground- 
floor box : her opera-glass, a bag of sweets, and 
a bouquet of camellias. 

For twenty-five days of the month the camel- 
lias were white, and for five they were red ; no 
one ever knew the reason of this change of 
colour, which I mention though I can not ex- 
plain it ; it was noticed both by her friends and 
by the habituds of the theatres to which she 
most often went. She was never seen with any 
flowers but camellias. At the florist's, Madame 
Barjon's, she had come to be called " the Lady 
of the Camellias," and the name stuck to her. 

Like all those who move in a certain set in 
Paris, I knew that Marguerite had lived with some 
of the most fashionable young men in society, that 


The Lady of the Camellias 

she spoke of it openly, and that they themselves 
boasted of it ; so that all seemed equally pleased 
with one another. Nevertheless, for about three 
years, after a visit to Bagneres, she was said to be 
living with an old duke, a foreigner, enormously 
rich, who had tried to remove her as far as pos- 
sible from her former life, and, as it seemed, en- 
tirely to her own satisfaction. 

This is what I was told on the subject. In 
the spring of 1842 Marguerite was so ill that 
the doctors ordered her to take the waters, and 
she went to Bagneres. Among the invalids was 
the daughter of this duke ; she was not only 
suffering from the same complaint, but she was 
so like Marguerite in appearance that they might 
have been taken for sisters ; the young duchess 
was in the last stage of consumption, and a few 
days after Marguerite's arrival she died. 

One morning, the duke, who had remained at 
Bagneres to be near the soil that had buried a part 
of his heart, caught sight of Marguerite at a turn 
of the road. He seemed to see the shadow of his 
child, and going up to her, he took her hands, 
embraced and wept over her, and without even 
asking her who she was, begged her to let him 
love in her the living image of his dead child. 
Marguerite, alone at Bagneres with her maid, and 


The Lady of the Camellias 

not being in any fear of compromising herself, 
granted the duke's request. Some people who 
knew her, happening to be at Bagneres, took upon 
themselves to explain Mademoiselle Gautier's true 
position to the duke. It was a blow to the old 
man, for the resemblance with his daughter was 
ended in one direction, but it was too late. She 
had become a necessity to his heart, his only pre- 
text, his only excuse, for living. He made no 
reproaches, he had indeed no right to do so, but 
he asked her if she felt herself capable of changing 
her mode of life, offering her in return for the 
sacrifice every compensation that she could desire. 
She consented. 

It must be said that Marguerite was just then 
very ill. The past seemed to her sensitive nature 
as if it were one of the main causes of her illness, 
and a sort of superstition led her to hope that God 
would restore to her both health and beauty in 
return for her repentance and conversion. By the 
end of the summer, the waters, sleep, the natural 
fatigue of long walks, had indeed more or less re- 
stored her health. The duke accompanied her to 
Paris, where he continued to see her as he had 
done at Bagneres. 

This liaison, whose motive and origin were 
quite unknown, caused a great sensation, for the 


The Lady of the Camellias 

duke, already known for his immense fortune, 
now became known for his prodigality. All this 
was set down to the debauchery of a rich old man, 
and everything was believed except the truth. 
The father's sentiment for Marguerite had, in truth, 
so pure a cause that anything but a communion 
of hearts would have seemed to him a kind of 
incest, and he had never spoken to her a word 
which his daughter might not have heard. 

Far be it from me to make out our heroine to 
be anything but what she was. As long as she 
remained at Bagneres, the promise she had made 
to the duke had not been hard to keep, and she 
had kept it ; but, once back in Paris, it seemed to 
her, accustomed to a life of dissipation, of balls, 
of orgies, as if the solitude, only interrupted by 
the duke's stated visits, would kill her with bore- 
dom, and the hot breath of her old life came back 
across her head and heart. 

We must add that Marguerite had returned 
more beautiful than she had ever been ; she was 
but twenty, and her malady, sleeping but not sub- 
dued, continued to give her those feverish desires 
which are almost always the result of diseases of 
the chest. 

It was a great grief to the duke when his 
friends, always on the lookout for some scandal 


The Lady of the Camellias 

on the part of the woman with whom, it seemed 
to them, he was compromising himself, came to 
tell him, indeed to prove to him, that at times 
when she was sure of not seeing him she received 
other visits, and that these visits were often pro- 
longed till the following day. On being ques- 
tioned. Marguerite admitted everything to the 
duke, and advised him, without arrilre-pensee, to 
concern himself with her no longer, for she felt 
incapable of carrying out what she had under- 
taken, and she did not wish to go on accepting 
benefits from a man whom she was deceiving. 
The duke did not return for a week ; it was all he 
could do, and on the eighth day he came to beg 
Marguerite to let him still visit her, promising that 
he would take her as she was, so long as he might 
see her, and swearing that he would never utter a 
reproach against her, not though he were to die 
of it. 

This, then, was the state of things three months 
after Marguerite's return ; that is to say, in No- 
vember or December, 1842. 



At one o'clock on the i6th I went to the Rue 
d'Antin. The voice of the auctioneer could be 
heard from the outer door. The rooms were 
crowded with people. There were all the celebri- 
ties of the most elegant impropriety, furtively 
examined by certain great ladies who had again 
seized the opportunity of the sale in order to be 
able to see, close at hand, women whom they 
might never have another occasion of meeting, 
and whom they envied perhaps in secret for their 
easy pleasures. The Duchess of F. elbowed Mile. 
A., one of the most melancholy examples of our 
modern courtesan ; the Marquis de T. hesitated 
over a piece of furniture the price of which was 
being run high by Mme. D., the most elegant and 
famous adulteress of our time ; the Duke of Y., 
who in Madrid is supposed to be ruining himself 
in Paris, and in Paris to be ruining himself in Ma- 
drid, and who, as a matter of fact, never even 
reaches the limit of his income, talked with Mme. 
M., one of our wittiest story-tellers, who from time 


The Lady of the Camellias 

to time writes what she says and signs what she 
writes, while at the same time he exchanged confi- 
dential glances with Mme. de N., a fair ornament 
of the Champs-Elysees, almost always dressed in 
pink or blue, and driving two big black horses 
which Tony had sold her for 10,000 francs, and for 
which she had paid, after her fashion ; finally, Mile. 
R., who makes by her mere talent twice what the 
women of the world make by their dot and three 
times as much as the others make by their amours, 
had come, in spite of the cold, to make some pur- 
chases, and was not the least looked at among the 

We might cite the initials of many more of 
those who found themselves, not without some 
mutual surprise, side by side in one room. But 
we fear to weary the reader. We will only add 
that every one was in the highest spirits, and that 
many of those present had known the dead 
woman, and seemed quite oblivious of the fact. 
There was a sound of loud laughter ; the auction- 
eers shouted at the top of their voices ; the dealers 
who had filled the benches in front of the auction 
table tried in vain to obtain silence, in order to 
transact their business in peace. Never was there 
a noisier or a more varied gathering. 

I slipped quietly into the midst of this tumult, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

sad to think of when one remembered that the 
poor creature whose goods were being sold to 
pay her debts had died in the next room. Having 
come rather to examine than to buy, I watched 
the faces of the auctioneers, noticing how they 
beamed with delight whenever anything reached 
a price beyond their expectations. Honest crea- 
tures, who had speculated upon this woman's 
prostitution, who had gained their hundred per 
cent out of her, who had plagued with their writs 
the last moments of her life, and who came now 
after her death to gather in at once the fruits of 
their dishonourable calculations and the interest 
on their shameful credit ! How wise were the an- 
cients in having only one God for traders and 
robbers ! 

Dresses, cashmeres, jewels, were sold with in- 
credible rapidity. There was nothing that I cared 
for, and I still waited. All at once I heard : " A 
volume, beautifully bound, gilt-edged, entitled 
Manon Lescaut. There is something written on 
the first page. Ten francs." 

" Twelve," said a voice after a longish silence. 

" Fifteen," I said. 

Why ? I did not know. Doubtless for the 
something written. 

" Fifteen," repeated the auctioneer. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Thirty," said the first bidder in a tone which 
seemed to defy further competition. 

It had now become a struggle. "Thirty-five," 
I cried in the same tone. 

" Forty." 

" Fifty." 

" Sixty." 

"A hundred." 

If I had wished to make a sensation I should 
certainly have succeeded, for a profound silence 
had ensued, and people gazed at me as if to see 
what sort of a person it was who seemed to be 
so determined to possess the volume. 

The accent which I had given to my last 
word seemed to convince my adversary ; he pre- 
ferred to abandon a conflict which could only 
have resulted in making me pay ten times its 
price for the volume, and, bowing, he said very 
gracefully, though indeed a little late : 

" I give way, sir." 

Nothing more being offered, the book was 
assigned to me. 

As I was afraid of some new fit of obstinacy, 
which my amour propre might have sustained 
somewhat better than my purse, I wrote down 
my name, had the book put on one side, and went 
out. I must have given considerable food for 


The Lady of the Camellias 

reflection to the witnesses of this scene, who 
would no doubt ask themselves what my pur- 
pose could have been in paying a hundred francs 
for a book which I could have had anywhere for 
ten, or, at the outside, fifteen. 

An hour after, I sent for my purchase. On 
the first page was written in ink, in an elegant 
hand, an inscription on the part of the giver. It 
consisted of these words : 

Mano7i to Marguerite: 

It was signed Armand Duval. 

What was the meaning of the word Humility ? 
Was Manon to recognise in Marguerite, in the 
opinion of M. Armand Duval, her superior in 
vice or in affection ? The second interpretation 
seemed the more probable, for the first would 
have been an impertinent piece of plain speaking 
which Marguerite, whatever her opinion of her- 
self, would never have accepted. 

I went out again, and thought no more of 
the book until at night, when I was going to bed. 

Manon Lescaut is a touching story. I know 
every detail of it, and yet whenever I come 
across the volume the same sympathy always 
draws me to it ; I open it, and for the hun- 


The Ladv of the Camellias 

dredth time I live over again with the heroine 
of the Abbd Prevost. Now this heroine is so 
true to life that I feel as if I had known her ; 
and thus the sort of comparison between her and 
Marguerite gave me an unusual inclination to 
read it, and my indulgence passed into pity, 
almost into a kind of love for the poor girl to 
whom I owed the volume. Manon died in the 
desert, it is true, but in the arms of the man who 
loved her with the whole energy of his soul ; 
who, when she was dead, dug a grave for her, 
and watered it with his tears, and buried his heart 
in it ; while Marguerite, a sinner like Manon, 
and perhaps converted like her, had died in a 
sumptuous bed (it seemed, after what I had seen, 
the bed of her past), but in that desert of the 
heart, a more barren, a vaster, a more pitiless 
desert than that in which Manon had found her 
last resting-place. 

Marguerite, in fact, as I had found from some 
friends who knew of the last circumstances of her 
life, had not a single real friend by her bedside 
during the two months of her long and painful 

Then from Manon and Marguerite my mind 
wandered to those whom I knew, and whom I saw 
singing along the way which led to just such an- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

other death. Poor souls ! if it is not right to 
love them, is it not well to pity them ? You pity 
the blind man who has never seen the daylight, 
the deaf who has never heard the harmonies of 
nature, the dumb who has never found a voice for 
his soul, and, under a false cloak of shame, you 
will not pity this blindness of heart, this deafness 
of soul, this dumbness of conscience, which sets 
the poor afflicted creature beside herself and 
makes her, in spite of herself, incapable of see- 
ing what is good, of hearing the Lord, and of 
speaking the pure language of love and faith. 

Hugo has written Marion Delorme, Musset 
has written Bernerette, Alexandre Dumas has 
written Fernande, the thinkers and poets of all 
time have brought to the courtesan the offering of 
their pity, and at times a great man has rehabili- 
tated them with his love and even with his name. 
If I insist on this point, it is because many among 
those who have begun to read me will be ready to 
throw down a book in which they will fear to 
find an apology for vice and prostitution ; and the 
author's age will do something, no doubt, to in- 
crease this fear. Let me undeceive those who 
think thus, and let them go on reading, if nothing 
but such a fear hinders them. 

I am quite simply convinced of a certain prin- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

ciple, which is : For the woman whose education 
has not taught her what is right, God almost 
always opens two ways which lead thither, the 
ways of sorrow and of love. They are hard ; those 
who walk in them walk with bleeding feet and 
torn hands, but they also leave the trappings of 
vice upon the thorns of the wayside, and reach the 
journey's end in a nakedness which is not shame- 
ful in the sight of the Lord. 

Those who meet these bold travellers ought to 
succour them, and to tell all that they have met 
them, for in so doing they point out the way. It 
is not a question of setting at the outset of life 
two sign-posts, one bearing the inscription "The 
Right Way," the other the inscription " The 
Wrong Way," and of saying to those who come 
there, " Choose." One must needs, like Christ, 
point out the ways which lead from the second 
road to the first, to those who have been easily led 
astray ; and it is needful that the beginning of 
these ways should not be too painful nor appear 
too impenetrable. 

Here is Christianity with its marvellous para- 
ble of the Prodigal Son to teach us indulgence 
and pardon. Jesus was full of love for souls 
wounded by the passions of men ; he loved to 
bind up their wounds and to find in those very 


The Lady of the Camellias 

wounds the balm which should heal them. Thus 
he said to the Magdalen : " Much shall be for- 
given thee because thou hast loved much," a sub- 
limity of pardon which can only have called forth 
a sublime faith. 

Why do we make ourselves more strict than 
Christ ? Why, holding obstinately to the opinions 
of the world, which hardens itself in order that it 
may be thought strong, do we reject, as it rejects, 
souls bleeding at wounds by which, like a sick 
man's bad blood, the evil of their past may be 
healed, if only a friendly hand is stretched out to 
lave them and set them in the convalescence of 
the heart ? 

It is to my own generation that I speak, to 
those for whom the theories of M. de Voltaire 
happily exist no longer, to those who, like myself, 
realize that humanity, for these last fifteen years, 
has been in one of its most audacious moments of 
expansion. The science of good and evil is ac- 
quired forever ; faith is refashioned, respect for 
sacred things has returned to us, and if the world 
has not all at once become good, it has at least be- 
come better. The efforts of every intelligent 
man tend in the same direction, and every strong 
will is harnessed to the same principle : Be good, 
be young, be true ! Evil is nothing but vanity, 

5 27 

The Lady of the Camellias 

let us have the pride of good, and above all let us 
never despair. Do not let us despise the woman 
who is neither mother, sister, maid, nor wife. Do 
not let us limit esteem to the family nor indul- 
gence to egoism. Since " there is more joy in 
heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over 
ninety and nine just persons that need no re- 
pentance," let us give joy to heaven. Heaven will 
render it back to us with usury. Let us leave on 
our way the alms of pardon for those whom 
earthly desires have driven astray, whom a divine 
hope shall perhaps save, and, as old women say 
when they offer you some homely remedy of their 
own, if it does no good it will do no harm. 

Doubtless it must seem a bold thing to at- 
tempt to deduce these grand results out of the 
meagre subject that I deal with ; but I am one of 
those who believe that all is in little. The child 
is small, and he includes the man ; the brain is 
narrow, and it harbours thought ; the eye is but a 
point, and it covers leagues. 



Two days after, the sale was ended. It had 
produced 150,000 francs. The creditors divided 
among them two thirds, and the family, a sister 
and a grand-nephew, received the remainder. 

The sister opened her eyes very wide when the 
lawyer wrote to her that she had inherited 50,000 
francs. The girl had not seen her sister for six or 
seven years, and did not know what had become 
of her from the moment when she had disappeared 
from home. She came up to Paris in haste, and 
great was the astonishment of those w^ho had 
known Marguerite when they saw as her only 
heir a fine, fat country girl, who until then had 
never left her village. She had made the for- 
tune at a single stroke, without even knowing the 
source of that fortune. She went back, I heard 
afterward, to her countryside, greatly saddened 
by her sister's death, but with a sadness which was 
somewhat lightened by the investment at four and 
a half per cent which she had been able to make. 

All these circumstances, often repeated in 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Paris, the mother city of scandal, had begun to be 
forgotten, and I was even little by little forget- 
ting the part I had taken in them, when a new 
incident brought to my knowledge the whole of 
Marguerite's life, and acquainted me with such 
pathetic details that I was taken with the idea of 
writing down the story which I now write. 

The rooms, now emptied of all their furniture, 
had been to let for three or four days when one 
morning there was a ring at my door. 

My servant, or, rather, my porter, who acted as 
my servant, went to the door and brought me a 
card, saying that the person who had given it to 
him wished to see me. 

I glanced at the card and there read these two 
words : Armand Duval. 

I tried to think where I had seen the name, 
and remembered the first leaf of the copy of Ma- 
non Lescaut. What could the person who had 
given the book to Marguerite want of me ? I 
gave orders to ask him in at once. 

I saw a young man, blond, tall, pale, dressed 
in a travelling suit which looked as if he had not 
changed it for some days, and had not even taken 
the trouble to brush it on arriving at Paris, for it 
was covered with dust. 

M. Duval was deeply agitated ; he made no 

The Lady of the Camellias 

attempt to conceal his agitation, and it was with 
tears in his eyes and a trembling voice that he said 
to me : 

" Sir, I beg you to excuse my visit and my 
costume ; but young people are not very cere- 
monious with one another, and I was so anxious 
to see you to-day that I have not even gone to the 
hotel to which I have sent my luggage, and have 
rushed straight here, fearing that, after all, I might 
miss you, early as it is." 

I begged M. Duval to sit down by the fire ; he 
did so, and, taking his handkerchief from his 
pocket, hid his face in it for a moment. 

" You must be at a loss to understand," he 
went on, sighing sadly, " for what purpose an un- 
known visitor, at such an hour, in such a costume, 
and in tears, can have come to see you. I have 
simply come to ask of you a great service." 

" Speak on, sir, I am entirely at your dis- 

" You were present at the sale of Marguerite 
Gautier ? " 

At this word the emotion, which he had got 
the better of for an instant, was too much for 
him, and he was obliged to cover his eyes with his 

" I must seem to you very absurd," he added. 
Vol. 13—3 31 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" but pardon me, and believe that I shall never 
forget the patience with which you have listened 
to me." 

" Sir," I answered, " if the service which I can 
render you is able to lessen your trouble a little, 
tell me at once what I can do for you, and you 
will find me only too happy to oblige you." 

M. Duval's sorrow was sympathetic, and in 
spite of myself I felt the desire of doing him a 
kindness. Thereupon he said to me : 

** You bought something at Marguerite's 

" Yes, a book." 

" Manon Lescaut ?" 

" Precisely." 

" Have you the book still ?" 

" It is in my bedroom." 

On hearing this, Armand Duval seemed to be 
relieved of a great weight, and thanked me as if I 
had already rendered him a service merely by keep- 
ing the book. 

I got up and went into my room to fetch the 
book, which I handed to him. 

"That is it indeed," he said, looking at the 
inscription on the first page and turning over the 
leaves ; " that is it indeed," and two big tears fell 
on the pages. " Well, sir," said he, lifting his 


The Lady of the Camellias 

bead, and no longer trying to hide from me that 
he had wept and was even then on the point 
of weeping, " do you value this book very 
greatly ? " 


" Because I have come to ask you to give it 
up to me." 

" Pardon my curiosity, but was it you, then, 
who gave it to Marguerite Gautier ? " 

" It was I." 

" The book is yours, sir ; take it back. I am 
happy to be able to hand it over to you." 

" But," said M. Duval with some embarrass- 
ment, '"the least I can do is to give you in return 
the price which you paid for it." 

** Allow me to offer it to you. The price of 
a single volume in a sale of that kind is a mere 
nothing, and I do not remember how much I gave 
for it." 

" You gave one hundred francs." 

" True," I said, embarrassed in my turn, " how 
do you know ? " 

" It is quite simple. I hoped to reach Paris 
in time for the sale, and I only managed to get 
here this morning. I was absolutely resolved to 
hav^e something which had belonged to her, and I 
hastened to the auctioneer and asked him to allow 


The Lady of the Camellias 

me to see the list of the things sold and of the 
buyers' names. I saw that this volume had been 
bought by you, and I decided to ask you to give 
it up to me, though the price you had set upon it 
made me fear that you might yourself have some 
souvenir in connection with the possession of the 

As he spoke. It was evident that he was afraid 
I had known Marguerite as he had known her. I 
hastened to reassure him. 

" I knew Mile. Gautier only by sight," I said ; 
"her death made on me the impression that the 
death of a pretty woman must always make on a 
young man who had liked seeing her. I wished 
to buy something at her sale, and I bid higher and 
higher for this book out of mere obstinacy and to 
annoy some one else, who was equally keen to ob- 
tain it, and who seemed to defy me to the con- 
test. I repeat, then, that the book is yours, and 
once more I beg you to accept it ; do not treat me 
as if I were an auctioneer, and let it be the pledge 
between us of a longer and more intimate ac- 

" Good," said Armand, holding out his hand 
and pressing mine ; " I accept, and I shall be grate- 
ful to you all my life." 

I was very anxious to question Armand on the 

The Lady of the Camellias 

subject of Marguerite, for the inscription in the 
book, the young man's hurried journey, his de- 
sire to possess the volume, piqued my curiosity ; 
but I feared if I questioned my visitor that I 
might seem to have refused his money only in 
order to have the right to pry into his affairs. 

It was as if he guessed my desire, for he said 
to me : 

" Have you read the volume ? " 

" All through." 

" What did you think of the two lines that I 
wrote in it ? " 

" I realized at once that the woman to whom 
you had given the volume must have been quite 
outside the ordinary category, for I could not take 
those two lines as a mere empty compliment." 

" You were right. That woman was an angel. 
See, read this letter." And he handed to me a 
paper which seemed to have been many times re- 

I opened it, and this is what it contained : 

"My dear Arm and : — I have received your 
letter. You are still good, and I thank God for 
it. Yes, my friend, I am ill, and with one of those 
diseases that never relent ; but the interest you 
still take in me makes my suffering less. I shall 


The Lady of the Camellias 

not live long enough, I expect, to have the happi- 
ness of pressing the hand which has written the 
kind letter I have just received ; the words of it 
would be enough to cure me, if anything could 
cure me. I shall not see you, for I am quite near 
death, and you are hundreds of leagues away. 
My poor friend ! your Marguerite of old times is 
sadly changed. It is better perhaps for you not to 
see her again than to see her as she is. You ask 
if I forgive you ; oh, with all my heart, friend, for 
the way you hurt me was only a way of proving 
the love you had for me. I have been in bed for 
a month, and I think so much of your esteem that 
I write every day the journal of my life, from the 
moment we left each other to the moment when I 
shall be able to write no longer. If the interest 
you take in me is real, Armand, when you come 
back go and see Julie Duprat. She will give you 
my journal. You will find in it the reason and 
the excuse for what has passed between us. Julie 
is very good to me ; we often talk of you to- 
gether. She was there when your letter came, 
and we both cried over it. 

" If you had not sent me any word, I had told 
her to give you those papers when you returned 
to France. Do not thank me for it. This daily 
looking back on the only happy moments of my 


The Lady of the Camellias 

life does me an immense amount of good, and if 
you will find in reading it some excuse for the 
past, I, for my part, find a continual solace in it. 
I should like to leave vou somethingr which would 
always remind you of me, but everything here has 
been seized, and I have nothing of my own. 

" Do you understand, my friend ? I am dying, 
and from my bed I can hear a man walking to and 
fro in the drawing-room ; my creditors have put 
him there to see that nothing is taken away, and 
that nothing remains to me in case I do not 
die. ■ I hope they will wait till the end before 
they begin to sell. 

" Oh, men have no pity ! or rather, I am 
wrong, it is God who is just and inflexible ! 

" And now, dear love, you will come to my 
sale, and you wnll buy something, for if I put 
aside the least thing for you, they might accuse 
you of embezzling seized goods. 

" It is a sad life that I am leaving ! 

" It would be good of God to let me see 
you again before I die. According to all proba- 
bility, good-bye, my friend. Pardon me if I do 
not write a longer letter, but those who say they 
are going to cure me wear me out with blood- 
letting, and my hand refuses to write any more. 

" Marguerite Gautier." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

The last two words were scarcely legible. I 
returned the letter to Armand, who had, no doubt, 
read it over again in his mind while I was reading 
it on paper, for he said to me as he took it : 

" Who would think that a kept woman could 
have written that ? " And, overcome by recollec- 
tions, he gazed for some time at the writing of the 
letter, which he finally carried to his lips. 

"And when I think," he went on, "that she 
died before I could see her, and that I shall never 
see her again, when I think that she did for me 
what no sister would ever have done, I can not 
forgive myself for having left her to die like 
that. Dead ! Dead and thinking of me, writing 
and repeating my name, poor dear Marguerite !" 

And Armand, giving free outlet to his 
thoughts and his tears, held out his hand to me, 
and continued : 

" People would think it childish enough if 
they saw me lament like this over a dead woman 
such as she ; no one will ever know what I made 
that woman suffer, how cruel I have been to her ! 
how good, how resigned she was ! I thought it 
was I who had to forgive her, and to-day I feel 
unworthy of the forgiveness which she grants me. 
Oh, I would give ten years of my life to weep at 
her feet for an hour ! " 


The Lady of the Camelh'as 

It is always difficult to console a sorrow that is 
unknown to one, and nevertheless I felt so lively 
a sympathy for the young man, he made me so 
frankly the confidant of his distress, that I be- 
lieved a word from me would not be indifferent 
to him, and I said : 

" Have you no parents, no friends ? Hope. 
Go and see them ; they will console you. As for 
me, I can only pity you." 

" It is true," he said, rising and walking to 
and fro in the room, " I am wear)nng you. Par- 
don me, I did not reflect how little my sorrow 
must mean to you, and that I am intruding upon 
you something which can not and ought not to 
interest you at all." 

" You mistake my meaning. I am entirely at 
your service ; only I regret my inability to calm 
your distress. If my society and that of my 
friends can give you any distraction, if, in short, 
you have need of me, no matter in what way, I 
hope you will realize how much pleasure it will 
give me to do anything for you." 

" Pardon, pardon," said he ; " sorrow sharpens 
the sensations. Let me stay here for a few min- 
utes longer, long enough to dry my eyes, so that 
the idlers in the street may not look upon it as a 
curiosity to see a big fellow like me crying. You 


The Lady of the Camellias 

have made me very happy by giving me this book. 
I do not know how I can ever express my grati- 
tude to you." 

" By giving me a little of your friendship," said 
I, " and by telling me the cause of your suffering. 
One feels better while telling what one suffers." 

" You are right. But to-day I have too much 
need of tears ; I can not very well talk. One day 
I will tell you the whole story, and you will see if 
I have reason for regretting the poor girl. And 
now," he added, rubbing his eyes for the last time, 
and looking at himself in the glass, " say that you 
do not think me too absolutely idiotic, and allow 
me to come back and see you another time." 

He cast on me a gentle and amiable look. I 
was near embracing him. As for him, his eyes 
again began to fill with tears ; he saw that I per- 
ceived it and turned away his head. 

"Come," I said, "courage." 

" Good-bye," he said. 

And, making a desperate effort to restrain his 
tears, he rushed rather than went out of the room. 

I lifted the curtain of my window, and saw 
him get into the cabriolet which awaited him at 
the door ; but scarcely was he seated before he 
burst into tears and hid his face in his pocket- 



A GOOD while elapsed before I heard anything 
more of Armand, but, on the other hand, I was 
constantly hearing of Marguerite. 

I do not know if you have noticed, if once the 
name of anybody who might in the natural course 
of things have always remained unknown, or at all 
events indifferent to you, should be mentioned 
before you, immediately details begin to group 
themselves about the name, and you find all your 
friends talking to you about something which they 
have never mentioned to you before. You dis- 
cover that this person was almost touching you 
and has passed close to you many times in your 
life without your noticing it ; you find coinci- 
dences in the events which are told you, a real 
affinity with certain events of your own existence. 
I was not absolutely at that point in regard to 
Marguerite, for I had seen and met her, I knew 
her by sight and by reputation ; nevertheless, 
since the moment of the sale, her name came to 
my ears so frequently, and, owing to the circum- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

stance that I have mentioned in the last chapter, 
that name was associated with so profound a sor- 
row, that my curiosity increased in proportion w^th 
my astonishment. The consequence was that 
whenever I met friends to whom I had never 
breathed the name of Marguerite, I always began 
by saying : 

" Did you ever know a certain Marguerite 
Gautier ?" 

"The Lady of the Camellias ?" 

" Exactly." 

•' Oh, very well ! " 

The word was sometimes accompanied by a 
smile which could leave no doubt as to its mean- 

" Well, what sort of a girl was she ?" 

"A good sort of girl." 

"Is that all?" 

" Oh, yes ; more intelligence and perhaps a lit- 
tle more heart than most." 

" Do you know anything particular about her ? " 

" She ruined Baron de G." 

"No more than that ?" 

" She was the mistress of the old Duke of . . ." 

" Was she really his mistress ? " 

" So they say ; at all events, he gave her a 
great deal of money." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

The general outlines were always the same. 
Nevertheless I was anxious to find out something 
about the relations between Marguerite and Ar- 
mand. Meeting one day a man who was con- 
stantly about with known women, I asked him : 
" Did you know Marguerite Gautier ?" 

The answer was the usual " Very well." 

"What sort of a girl was she ?" 

"A fine, good girl. I was very sorry to hear 
of her death." 

" Had she not a lover called Armand Duval?" 

"Tall and blond?" 

" Yes." 

" It is quite true." 

" Who was this Armand ?" 

"A fellow who squandered on her the little 
money he had, and then had to leave her. They 
say he was quite wild about it." 

"And she?" 

"They always say she was very much in love 
with him, but as girls like that are in love. It is 
no good to ask them for what they can not give." 

" What has become of Armand ?" 

" I don't know. We knew him very little. 
He was with Marguerite for five or six months in 
the country. When she came back, he had gone." 

"And you have never seen him since ?" 
^ 43 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Never." 

I, too, had not seen Armand again. I was be- 
ginning to ask myself if, when he had come to see 
me, the recent news of Marguerite's death had not 
exaggerated his former love, and consequently his 
sorrow, and I said to myself that perhaps he had 
already forgotten the dead woman, and along with 
her his promise to come and see me again. This 
supposition would have seemed probable enough 
in most instances, but in Armand's despair there 
had been an accent of real sincerity, and, going 
from one extreme to another, I imagined that dis- 
tress had brought on an illness, and that my not 
seeing him was explained by the fact that he was 
ill, perhaps dead. 

I was interested in the young man in spite of 
myself. Perhaps there was some selfishness in 
this interest ; perhaps I guessed at some pathetic 
love story under all this sorrow ; perhaps my de- 
sire to know all about it had much to do with the 
anxiety which Armand's silence caused me. 

Since M. Duval did not return to see me, I 
decided to go and see him. A pretext was not 
difficult to find ; unluckily I did not know his ad- 
dress, and no one among those whom I questioned 
could give it to me. 

I went to the Rue d'Antin ; perhaps Margue- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

rite's porter would know where Armand lived. 
There was a new porter ; he knew as little about 
it as I. I then asked in what cemetery Mile. 
Gautier had been buried. It was the Montmartre 
Cemetery. It was now the month of April ; the 
weather was fine, the graves were not likely to 
look as sad and desolate as they do in winter ; in 
short, it was warm enough for the living to think 
a little of the dead, and pay them a visit. I went 
to the cemetery, saying to myself : " One glance 
at Marguerite's grave, and I shall know if Ar- 
mand's sorrow still exists, and perhaps I may find 
out what has become of him." 

I entered the keeper's lodge, and asked him if 
on the 2 2d of February a woman named Margue- 
rite Gautier had not been buried in the Mont- 
martre Cemetery. He turned over the pages of a 
big book in which those who enter this last rest- 
ing-place are inscribed and numbered, and replied 
that on the 2 2d of February, at 12 o'clock, a 
woman of that name had been buried. 

I asked him to show me the grave, for 
there is no finding one's way without a guide in 
this city of the dead, which has its streets like a 
city of the living. The keeper called over a gar- 
dener, to whom he gave the necessary instruc- 
tions ; the gardener interrupted him, saying : " I 


The Lady of the Camellias 

know, I know. — It is not difficult to find that 
grave," he added, turning to me. 


" Because it has very different flowers from the 

" Is it you who look after it ?" 

" Yes, sir ; and I wish all relations took as 
much trouble about the dead as the young man 
who gave me my orders." 

After several turnings, the gardener stopped 
and said to me : " Here we are." 

I saw before me a square of flowers which one 
would never hav^e taken for a grave, if it had 
not been for a white marble slab bearing a 

The marble slab stood upright, an iron railing 
marked the limits of the ground purchased, and 
the earth was covered with white camellias. 

"What do you say to that?" said the gardener. 

" It is beautiful." 

" And whenever a camellia fades, I have orders 
to replace it." 

"Who gave you the order?" 

"A young gentleman, who cried the first time 
he came here ; an old pal of hers, I suppose, for 
they say she was a gay one. Very pretty, too, I 
believe. Did you know her, sir ? " 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Yes." 

"Like the other?" said the gardener, with a 
knowing smile. 

" No, I never spoke to her." 

" And you come here, too ! It is very good of 
you, for those that come to see the poor girl don't 
exactly cumber the cemetery." 

" Doesn't anybody come ? " 

" Nobody, except that young gentleman who 
came once." 

" Only once ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" He never came back again ?" 

" No, but he will when he gets home." 

" He is away somewhere ?" 

" Yes." 

" Do you know where he is ?" 

" I believe he has gone to see Mile. Gautier's 

" What does he want there ? " 

" He has gone to get her authority to have 
the corpse dug up again and put somewhere 

" Why won't he let it remain here ?" 

" You know, sir, people have queer notions 
about dead folk. We see something of that every 
day. The ground here was only bought for five 


The Lady of the Camellias 

years, and this young gentleman wants a perpetual 
lease and a bigger plot of ground ; it will be better 
in the new part." 

"What do you call the new part?" 

" The new plots of ground that are for sale, 
there to the left. If the cemetery had always 
been kept like it is now, there wouldn't be the 
like of it in the world ; but there is still plenty to 
do before it will be quite all it should be. And 
then people are so queer ! " 

" What do you mean ? " 

" I mean that there are people who carry their 
pride even here. Now, this Demoiselle Gautier, 
it appears she lived a bit free, if you'll excuse my 
saying so. Poor lady, she's dead now ; there's no 
more of her left than of them that no one has a 
word to say against. We water them every day. 
Well, when the relatives of the folk that are buried 
beside her found out the sort of person she was, 
what do you think they said ? That they would 
try to keep her out from here, and that there 
ought to be a piece of ground somewhere apart 
for these sort of women, like there is for the poor. 
Did you ever hear of such a thing ? I gave it to 
them straight, I did : well-to-do folk who come to 
see their dead four times a year, and bring their 
flowers themselves, and what flowers ! and look 


The Lady of the Camellias 

twice at the keep of them they pretend to cry 
over, and write on their tombstones all about the 
tears they haven't shed, and come and make diffi- 
culties about their neighbours. You may believe 
me or not, sir, I never knew the young lady ; I 
don't know what she did. Well, I'm quite in love 
with the poor thing ; I look after her well, and I 
let her have her camellias at an honest price. She 
is the dead body that I like the best. You see, 
sir, we are obliged to love the dead, for we are 
kept so busy, we have hardly time to love any- 
thing else." 

I looked at the man, and some of my readers 
will understand, without my needing to explain 
it to them, the emotion which I felt on hear- 
ing him. He observed it, no doubt, for he 
went on : 

" They tell me there w^ere people who ruined 
themselves over that girl, and lovers that wor- 
shipped her ; well, when I think there isn't one 
of them that so much as buys her a flower now, 
that's queer, sir, and sad. And, after all, she 
isn't so badly off, for she has her grave to herself, 
and if there is only one who remembers her, he 
makes up for the others. But we have other 
poor girls here, just like her and just her age, 
and they are just thrown into a pauper's grave, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and it breaks my heart when I hear their poor 
bodies drop into the earth. And not a soul 
thinks about them any more, once they are dead ! 
'Tisn't a merry trade, ours, especially when we 
have a little heart left. What do you expect ? 
I can't help it. I have a fine, strapping girl 
myself ; she's just twenty, and when a girl of that 
age comes here I think of her, and I don't care if 
it's a great lady or a vagabond, I can't help feel- 
ing it a bit. But I am taking up your time, sir, 
with my tales, and it wasn't to hear them you 
came here. I was told to show you Mile. Gau- 
tier's grave ; here you have it. Is there anything 
else I can do for you ? " 

" Do you know M. Armand Duval's address?" 
I asked. 

" Yes ; he lives at Rue de ; at least, that's 

where I always go to get my money for the 
flowers you see there." 

" Thanks, my good man." 

I gave one more look at the grave covered 
with flowers, half longing to penetrate the depths 
of the earth and see what the earth had made of 
the fair creature that had been cast to it ; then 
I walked sadly away. 

"Do you want to see M. Duval, sir?" said 
the gardener, who was walking beside me. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Yes." 

"Well, I am pretty sure he is not back yet, 
or he would have been here already." 

" You don't think he has forgotten Mar- 
guerite ? " 

** I am not only sure he hasn't, but I would 
wager that he wants to change her grave simply 
in order to have one more look at her." 

" Why do you think that ? " 

" The first word he said to me when he came 
to the cemetery was : ' How can I see her again ?' 
That can't be done unless there is a change of 
grave, and I told him all about the formalities 
that have to be attended to in getting it done ; 
for, you see, if you want to move a body from 
one grave to another you must have it identified, 
and only the family can give leave for it under 
the direction of a police inspector. That is why 
M. Duval has gone to see Mile. Gautier's sister, 
and you may be sure his first visit will be 
for me." 

We had come to the cemetery gate. I thanked 
the gardener again, putting a few coins into his 
hand, and made my way to the address he had 
given me. 

Armand had not yet returned. I left word 
for him, begging him to come and see me as soon 

The Lady of the Camellias 

as he arrived, or to send me word where I could 
find him. 

Next day, in the morning, I received a letter 
from Duval, telling me of his return, and asking 
me to call on him, as he was so worn out with 
fatigue that it was impossible for him to go out. 



I FOUND Armand in bed. On seeing me he 
held out a burning hand. 

" You are feverish," I said to him. 

" It is nothing, the fatigue of a rapid journey ; 
that is all" 

" You have been to see Marguerite's sister?" 

" Yes ; who told you ? " 

" I know it. Did you get what you wanted ? " 

" Yes ; but who told you of my journey, and 
of my reason for taking it ? " 

" The gardener of the cemetery." 

*' You have seen the tomb ?" 

I scarcely dared reply, for the tone in which 
the words were spoken proved to me that the 
speaker was still possessed by the emotion which 
I had witnessed before, and that every time his 
thoughts or speech travelled back to that mourn- 
ful subject emotion would still, for a long time to 
come, prove stronger than his will. I contented 
myself with a nod of the head. 

"He has looked after it well?" continued 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Armand. Two big tears rolled down the cheeks 
of the sick man, and he turned away his head to 
hide them from me. I pretended not to see 
them, and tried to change the conversation. 

" You have been away three weeks," I said. 

Armand passed his hand across his eyes and 
replied, " Exactly three weeks." 

" You had a long journey." 

" Oh, I was not travelling all the time. I was 
ill for a fortnight, or I should have returned long 
ago ; but I had scarcely got there when I took 
this fever, and I was obliged to keep my room." 

" And you started to come back before you 
were really well ? " 

" If I had remained in the place for another 
week, I should have died there." 

" Well, now you are back again, you must 
take care of yourself ; your friends will come and 
look after you ; myself, first of all, if you will 
allow me." 

" I shall get up in a couple of hours." 

" It would be very unwise." 

" I must." 

" What have you to do in such a great 
hurry ? " 

" I must go to the inspector of police." 

" Why do you not get one of your friends to 

The Lady of the Camellias 

see after the matter ? It is likely to make you 
worse than you are now." 

" It is my only chance of getting better. I 
must see her. Ever since I heard of her death, 
especially since I saw her grave, I have not been 
able to sleep. I can not realize that this woman, 
so young and so beautiful when I left her, is 
really dead. I must convince myself of it. I 
must see what God has done with a being that I 
have loved so much, and perhaps the horror of 
the sight will cure me of my despair. Will you 
accompany me, if it won't be troubling you too 
much ? " 

" What did her sister say about it ? " 

" Nothing. She seemed greatly surprised that 
a stranger wanted to buy a plot of ground and 
give Marguerite a new grave, and she immedi- 
ately signed the authorization that I asked her 

" Believe me, it would be better to wait until 
you are quite well." 

" Have no fear ; I shall be quite composed. 
Besides, I should simply go out of my mind if I 
were not to carry out a resolution which I have set 
myself to carry out. I swear to you that I shall 
never be myself again until I have seen Mar- 
guerite. It is perhaps the thirst of the fever, a 


The Lady of the Camellias 

sleepless night's dream, a moment's delirium ; but 
though I were to become a Trappist, like M. de 
Ranc^, after having seen, I will see." 

"I understand," I said to Armand, "and I 
am at your service. Have you seen Julie 
Duprat ? " 

" Yes, I saw her the day I returned, for the 
first time." 

" Did she give you the papers that Marguerite 
had left for you ? " 

Armand drew a roll of papers from under his 
pillow, and immediately put them back. 

" I know all that is in these papers by heart," 
he said. " For three weeks I have read them ten 
times over every day. You shall read them, too, 
but later on, when I am calmer, and can make 
you understand all the love and tenderness hidden 
away in this confession. For the moment I want 
you to do me a service." 

"What is it?" 

" Your cab is below ? " 

" Yes." 

"Well, will you take my passport and ask if 
there are any letters for me at the poste restante ? 
My father and sister must have written to me at 
Paris, and I went away in such haste that I did 
not go and see before leaving. When you come 


The Lady of the Camellias 

back we will go together to the inspector of 
police, and arrange for to-morrow's ceremony." 

Armand handed me his passport, and I went 
to Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. There were two 
letters addressed to Duval. I took them and re- 
turned. When I re-entered the room Armand 
was dressed and ready to go out." 

" Thanks," he said, taking the letters. " Yes," 
he added, after glancing at the addresses, "they 
are from my father and sister. They must have 
been quite at a loss to understand my silence." 

He opened the letters, guessed at rather than 
read them, for each was of four pages ; and a mo- 
ment after folded them up. " Come," he said, " I 
will answer to-morrow." 

We went to the police station, and Armand 
handed in the permission signed by Marguerite's 
sister. He received in return a letter to the 
keeper of the cemetery, and it was settled that 
the disinterment was to take place next day, at 
ten o'clock, that I should call for him an hour 
before, and that we should go to the cemetery 

I confess that I was curious to be present, and 
I did not sleep all night. Judging from the 
thoughts which filled my brain, it must have been 
a long night for Armand. When I entered his 


The Lady of the Camellias 

room at nine on the following morning he was 
frightfully pale, but seemed calm. He smiled 
and held out his hand. His candles were burned 
out ; and before leaving he took a very heavy 
letter addressed to his father, and no doubt con- 
taining an account of that night's impressions. 

Half an hour later we were at Montmartre. 
The police inspector was there already. We 
walked slowly in the direction of Marguerite's 
grave. The inspector went in front ; Armand 
and I followed a few steps behind. 

From time to time I felt my companion's arm 
tremble convulsively, as if he shivered from head 
to feet. I looked at him. He understood the 
look, and smiled at me ; we had not exchanged a 
word since leaving the house. 

Just before we reached the grave, Armand 
stopped to wipe his face, which was covered with 
great drops of sweat. I took advantage of the 
pause to draw in a long breath, for I, too, felt as 
if I had a weight on my chest. 

What is the origin of that mournful pleasure 
which we find in sights of this kind ? When we 
reached the grave the gardener had removed all 
the flower-pots, the iron railing had been taken 
away, and two men were turning up the soil. 

Armand leaned against a tree and watched. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

All his life seemed to pass before his eyes. Sud- 
denly one of the two pickaxes struck against a 
stone. At the sound Armand recoiled, as at an 
electric shock, and seized my hand with such force 
as to give me pain. 

One of the grave-diggers took a shovel and 
began emptying out the earth ; then, when only 
the stones covering the coffin were left, he threw 
them out one by one. 

I scrutinized Armand, for every moment I was 
afraid lest the emotions which he was visibly re- 
pressing should prove too much for him ; but he 
still watched, his eyes fixed and wide open, like 
the eyes of a madman, and a slight trembling of 
the cheeks and lips were the only signs of the vio- 
lent nervous crisis under which he was suffering. 

As for me, all I can say is that I regretted hav- 
ing come. 

When the coffin was uncovered the inspector 
said to the grave-digger : "Open it." They obeyed, 
as if it were the most natural thing in the world. 

The coffin was of oak, and they began to un- 
screw the lid. The humidity of the earth had 
rusted the screws, and it was not without some 
difficulty that the coffin was opened. A painful 
odour arose in spite of the aromatic plants with 
which it was covered. 

7 59 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" O my God, my God ! " murmured Armand, 
and turned paler than before. 

Even the grave-digger drew back. 

A great white shroud covered the corpse, 
closely outlining some of its contours. This 
shroud was almost completely eaten away at one 
end, and left one of the feet visible. 

I was nearly fainting, and at the moment of 
writing these lines I see the whole scene over again 
in all its imposing reality. 

" Quick," said the inspector. Thereupon one 
of the men put out his hand, began to unsew 
the shroud, and taking hold of it by one end sud- 
denly laid bare the face of Marguerite. 

It was terrible to see, it is horrible to relate. 
The eyes were nothing but two holes, the lips had 
disappeared, vanished, and the white teeth were 
tightly set. The black hair, long and dry, was 
pressed tightly about the forehead, and half veiled 
the green hollows of the cheeks ; and yet I recog- 
nised in this face the joyous white and rose face 
that I had seen so often. 

Armand, unable to turn away his eyes, had put 
the handkerchief to his mouth and bit it. 

For my part, it was as if a circle of iron tight- 
ened about my head, a veil covered my eyes, a 
rumbling filled my ears, and all I could do was to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

unstop a smelling bottle which I happened to 
have with me, and to draw in long breaths of it. 

Through this bewilderment I heard the inspec- 
tor say to Duval, " Do you identify ?" 

" Yes," replied the young man in a dull voice. 

"Then fasten it up and take it away," said the 

The grave-diggers put back the shroud over 
the face of the corpse, fastened up the coffin, took 
hold of each end of it, and began to carry it to- 
ward the place where they had been told to 
take it. 

Armand did not move. His eyes were fixed 
upon the empty grave ; he was as white as the 
corpse which we had just seen. He looked as if 
he had been turned to stone. 

I saw what was coming as soon as the pain 
caused by the spectacle should have abated and 
thus ceased to sustain him. I went up to the 
inspector. " Is this gentleman's presence still ne- 
cessary ? " I said, pointing to Armand. 

" No," he replied, " and I should advise you to 
take him away. He looks ill." 

*' Come," I said to Armand, taking him by 
the arm. 

" What ? " he said, looking at me as if he did 
not recognise me. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" It is all over," I added. " You must come, 
my friend ; you are quite white, you are cold. 
These emotions will be too much for you." 

" You are right. Let us go," he answered 
mechanically, but without moving a step. 

I took him by the arm and led him along. 
He let himself be guided like a child, only from 
time to time murmuring, " Did you see her 
eyes?" and he turned as if the vision had recalled 

Nevertheless, his steps became more irregular ; 
he seemed to walk by a series of jerks ; his teeth 
chattered ; his hands were cold ; a violent agitation 
ran through his body. I spoke to him ; he did 
not answer. He was just able to let himself be 
led along. A cab was waiting at the gate. It was 
only just in time. Scarcely had he seated himself, 
when the shivering became more violent, and he 
had an actual attack of nerves, in the midst of 
which his fear of frightening me made him press 
my hand and whisper : " It is nothing, nothing. I 
want to weep." 

His chest laboured, his eyes were injected with 
blood, but no tears came. I made him smell the 
salts which I had with me, and when we reached 
his house only the shivering remained. 

With the help of his servant I put him to bed, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

lit a big fire in his room, and hurried off to my 
doctor, to whom I told all that had happened. 
He hastened with me. 

Armand was flushed and delirious ; he stam- 
mered out disconnected words, in which only the 
name of Marguerite could be distinctly heard. 

*' Well ? " I said to the doctor when he had 
examined the patient. 

" Well, he has neither more nor less than brain 
fever, and very lucky it is for him, for I firmly 
believe (God forgive me !) that he would have 
gone out of his mind. Fortunately, the physical 
malady will kill the mental one, and in a month's 
time he will be free from the one and perhaps 
from the other." 

Vol. 13—4 



Illnesses like Armand's have one fortunate 
thing about them : they either kill outright or 
are very soon overcome. A fortnight after the 
events which I have just related Armand was 
convalescent, and we had already become great 
friends. During the whole course of his illness I 
had hardly left his side. 

Spring was profuse in its flowers, its leaves, its 
birds, its songs ; and my friend's window opened 
gaily upon his garden, from which a reviving 
breath of health seemed to come to him. The 
doctor had allowed him to get up, and we often 
sat talking at the open window, at the hour when 
the sun is at its height, from twelve to two. I 
was careful not to refer to Marguerite, fearing 
lest the name should awaken sad recollections 
hidden under the apparent calm of the invalid ; 
but Armand, on the contrary, seemed to delight 
in speaking of her, not as formerly, with tears in 
his eyes, but with a sweet smile which reassured 
me as to the state of his mind. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

I had noticed that ever since his last visit to 
the cemetery, and the sight which had brought on 
so violent a crisis, sorrow seemed to have been 
overcome by sickness, and Marguerite's death no 
longer appeared to him under its former aspect. 
A kind of consolation had sprung from the cer- 
tainty of which he was now fully persuaded, and 
in order to banish the sombre picture which often 
presented itself to him, he returned upon the 
happy recollections of his liaison with Marguerite, 
and seemed resolved to think of nothing else. 

The body was too much weakened by the at- 
tack of fever, and even by the process of its cure, 
to permit him any violent emotions, and the uni- 
versal joy of spring which wrapped him round 
carried his thoughts instinctively to images of joy. 
He had always obstinately refused to tell his 
family of the danger which he had been in, and 
when he was well again his father did not even 
know that he had been ill. 

One evening we had sat at the window later 
than usual ; the weather had been superb, and the 
sun sank to sleep in a twilight dazzling with gold 
and azure. Though we were in Paris, the verdure 
which surrounded us seemed to shut us off from 
the world, and our conversation was only now and 
a^ain disturbed by the sound of a passing vehicle, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" It was about this time of the year, on the 
evening of a day like this, that I first met Mar- 
guerite," said Armand to me, as if he were listen- 
ing to his own thoughts rather than to what I was 
saying. I did not answer. Then turning toward 
me, he said : 

" I must tell you the whole story ; you will 
make a book out of it ; no one will believe it, but 
it will perhaps be interesting to do." 

" You will tell me all about it later on, my 
friend," I said to him; "you are not strong 
enough yet." 

"It is a warm evening, I have eaten my ra- 
tion of chicken," he said to me, smiling ; " I have 
no fever, we have nothing to do, I will tell it to 
you now." 

" Since you really wish it, I will listen." 

This is what he told me, and I have scarcely 
changed a word of the touching story. 

Yes (Armand went on, letting his head sink 
back on the chair), yes, it was just such an evening 
as this. I had spent the day in the country with 

one of my friends, Gaston R . We returned 

to Paris in the evening, and not knowing what 
to do we went to the Vari^t^s. We went out 
during one of the ciitractcs, and a tall woman 

The Lady of the Camellias 

passed us in the corridor, to whom my friend 

" Whom are you bowing to ? " I asked. 

" Marguerite Gautier," he said. 

" She seems much changed, for I did not rec- 
ognise her," I said, with an emotion that you will 
soon understand. 

" She has been ill ; the poor girl won't last 

I remember the words as if they had been 
spoken to me yesterday. 

I must tell you, my friend, that for two years 
the sight of this girl had made a strange impres- 
sion on me whenever I came across her. Without 
knowing why, I turned pale and my heart beat 
violently. I have a friend who studies the occult 
sciences, and he would call what I experienced 
" the affinity of fluids " ; as for me, I only know 
that I was fated to fall in love with Marguerite, 
and that I foresaw it. 

It is certainly the fact that she made a very 
definite impression upon me, that many of my 
friends had noticed it and that they had been 
much amused when they saw who it was that 
made this impression upon me. 

The first time I ever saw her was in the Place 
de la Bourse, outside Susse's ; an open carriage 


The Lady of the Camellias 

was stationed there, and a woman dressed in white 
got down from it. A murmur of admiration 
greeted her as she entered the shop. As for me, 
I was rivetted to the spot from the moment she 
went in till the moment when she came out again. 
I could see her through the shop windows select- 
ing what she had come to buy. I might have 
gone in, but I dared not. I did not know who 
she was, and I was afraid lest she should guess 
why I had come in and be offended. Never- 
theless, I did not think I should ever see her 

She was elegantly dressed ; she wore a muslin 
dress with many flounces, an Indian shawl em- 
broidered at the corners with gold and silk flow- 
ers, a straw hat, a single bracelet, and a heavy gold 
chain, such as was just then beginning to be the 

She returned to her carriage and drove away. 
One of the shopmen stood at the door looking 
after his elegant customer's carriage. I went up 
to him and asked him what was the lady's name. 

" Mademoiselle Marguerite Gautier," he re- 
plied. I dared not ask him for her address, and 
went on my way. 

The recollection of this vision, for it was really 
a vision, would not leave my mind like so many 

The Lady of the Camellias 

visions I had seen, and I looked everywhere for 
this royally beautiful woman in white. 

A few days later there was a great performance 
at the Op^ra Comique. The first person I saw in 
one of the boxes was Marguerite Gautier. 

The young man whom I was with recognised 
her immediately, for he said to me, mentioning 
her name : " Look at that pretty girl." 

At that moment Marguerite turned her opera- 
glass in our direction and, seeing my friend, 
smiled and beckoned to him to come to her. 

" I will go and say ' How do you do ?' to her," 
he said, " and will be back in a moment." 

I could not help saying " Happy man ! " 


"To go and see that woman." 

" Are you in love with her ? " 

" No," I said, flushing, for I really did not 
know what to say ; " but I should very much like 
to know her." 

" Come with me. I will introduce you." 

" Ask her if you may." 

" Really, there is no need to be particular with 
her; come." 

What he said troubled me. I feared to dis- 
cover that Marguerite was not worthy of the 
sentiment which I felt for her. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

In a book of Alphonse Karr entitled Am 
Rauchen, there is a man who one evening fol- 
lows a very elegant woman, with whom he had 
fallen in love at first sight on account of her 
beauty. Only to kiss her hand he feels that he 
had the strength to undertake anything, the will 
to conquer anything, the courage to achieve any- 
thing. He scarcely dares glance at the trim ankle 
which she shows as she holds her dress out of the 
mud. While he is dreaming of all that he would 
do to possess this woman, she stops at the corner 
of the street and asks if he will come home with 
her. He turns his head, crosses the street, and 
goes back sadly to his own house. 

I recalled the story, and, having longed to 
suffer for this woman, I was afraid that she would 
accept me too promptly and give me at once 
what I would fain have purchased by long waiting 
or some great sacrifice. We men are built like 
that ; and it is very fortunate that the imagination 
lends so much poetry to the senses, and that the 
desires of the body make thus much concession to 
the dreams of the soul. If any one had said to 
me, Vou shall have this woman to-night and be 
killed to-morrow, I would have accepted. If any 
one had said to me, You can be her lover for ten 
pounds, I would have refused. I would have 


The Lady of the Camellias 

cried like a child who sees the castle he has been 
dreaming about vanish away as he awakens from 

All the same, I wished to know her ; it was 
my only means of making up my mind about her. 
I therefore said to my friend that I insisted on 
having her permission to be introduced to her, 
and I wandered to and fro in the corridors, saying 
to myself that in a moment's time she was going 
to see me, and that I should not know which 
way to look. I tried (sublime childishness of 
love !) to string together the words I should say 
to her. 

A moment after my friend returned. " She is 
expecting us," he said. 

" Is she alone ? " I asked. 

" With another woman." 

" There are no men ? " 

" No." 

•' Come, then." 

My friend went toward the door of the 

" That is not the way," I said. 

"We must go and get some sweets. She 
asked me for some." 

We went into a confectioner's in the passage 
de rOp^ra. I would have bought the whole shop, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and I was looking about to see what sweets to 
choose, when my friend asked for a pound of 
raisins glacis. 

" Do you know if she likes them ? " 

" She eats no other kind of sweets ; everybody 
knows it. 

"Ah," he went on when we had left the shop, 
" do you know what kind of woman it is that I 
am going to introduce you to ? Don't imagine it 
is a duchess. It is simply a kept woman, very 
much kept, my dear fellow ; don't be shy, say 
anything that comes into your head." 

" Yes, yes," I stammered, and I followed him, 
saying to myself that I should soon cure myself 
of my passion. 

When I entered the box Marguerite was in 
fits of laughter. I would rather that she had 
been sad. My friend introduced me ; Mar- 
guerite gave me a little nod, and said, " And 
my sweets ? " 

" Here they are." 

She looked at me as she took them. I 
dropped my eyes and blushed. 

She leaned across to her neighbour and said 
something in her ear, at which both laughed. 
Evidently I was the cause of their mirth, and my 
embarrassment increased. At that time I had as 


The Lady of the Camellias 

mistress a very affectionate and sentimental little 
person, whose sentiment and whose melancholy 
letters amused me greatly. I realized the pain I 
must have given her by what I now experienced, 
and for five minutes I loved her as no woman was 
ever loved. 

Marguerite ate her raisins glacis without 
taking any more notice of me. The friend who 
had introduced me did not wish to let me remain 
in so ridiculous a position. 

"Marguerite," he said, "you must not be sur- 
prised, if M. Duval says nothing: you overwhelm 
him to such a degree that he can not find a word 
to say." 

" I should say, on the contrary, that he has 
only come with you because it would have bored 
you to come here by yourself." 

" If that were true," I said, " I should not 
have begged Ernest to ask your permission to 
introduce me," 

" Perhaps that was only in order to put off the 
fatal moment." 

However little one may have known women 
like Marguerite, one can not but know the delight 
they take in pretending to be witty and in teasing 
the people whom they meet for the first time. It 
is no doubt a return for the humiliations which 


The Lady of the Camellias 

they often have to submit to on the part of those 
whom they see every day. 

To answer them properly, one requires a cer- 
tain knack, and I had not had the opportunity of 
acquiring it ; besides, the idea that I had formed of 
Marguerite accentuated the effects of her mock- 
ery. Nothing that came from her was indifferent 
to me. I rose to my feet, saying in an altered 
voice, which I could not entirely control : 

" If that is what you think of me, madame, I 
have only to ask your pardon for my indiscretion, 
and to take leave of you with the assurance that 
it shall not occur again." 

Thereupon I bowed and quitted the box. I 
had scarcely closed the door when I heard a third 
peal of laughter. It would not have been well for 
anybody who had elbowed me at that moment. 

I returned to my seat. The signal for raising 
the curtain was given. Ernest came back to his 
place beside me. 

" What a way you behaved ! " he said, as he 
sat down. "They will think you are mad." 

"What did Marguerite say after I had gone?" 

" She laughed, and said she had never seen 
any one so funny. But don't look upon it as a 
lost chance ; only do not do these women the 
honour of taking them seriously. They do not 


The Lady of the Camellias 

know what politeness and ceremony are. It is 
as if you were to offer perfumes to dogs — they 
would think it smelled bad, and go and roll in the 

" After all, what does it matter to me ? " I 
said, affecting to speak in a nonchalant way. " I 
shall never see this woman again, and if I liked 
her before meeting her, it is quite different now 
that I know her." 

" Bah ! I don't despair of seeing you one day 
at the back of her box, and of hearing that you 
are ruining yourself for her. However, you are 
right, she hasn't been well brought up ; but she 
would be a charming mistress to have." 

Happily, the curtain rose and my friend was 
silent. I could not possibly tell you what they 
were acting. All that I remember is that from 
time to time I raised my eyes to the box I had 
quitted so abruptly, and that the faces of fresh 
visitors succeeded one another all the time. 

I was far from having given up thinking about 
Marguerite. Another feeling had taken posses- 
sion of me. It seemed to me that I had her 
insult and my absurdity to wipe out ; I said to 
myself that if I spent every penny I had, I would 
win her and win my right to the place I had 
abandoned so quickly. 

a 75 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Before the performance was over Marguerite 
and her friend left their box. I rose from my 

" Are you going ?" said Ernest. 



At that moment he saw that the box was 

" Go, go," he said, " and good luck, or rather 
better luck." 

I went out. 

I heard the rustle of dresses, the sound of 
voices, on the staircase. I stood aside, and, with- 
out being seen, saw the two women pass me, 
accompanied by two young men. At the en- 
trance to the theatre they were met by a foot- 

"Tell the coachman to wait at the door of the 
Caf^ Anglais," said Marguerite. " We will walk 

A few minutes afterward I saw Marguerite 
from the street at a window of one of the large 
rooms of the restaurant, pulling the camellias of 
her bouquet to pieces, one by one. One of the 
two men was leaning over her shoulder and whis- 
pering in her ear. 

I took up my position at the Maison-d'Or, in 

The Lady of the Camellias 

one of the first-floor rooms, and did not lose sight 
of the window for an instant. At one in the 
morning Marguerite got into her carriage with 
her three friends. I took a cab and followed 
them. The carriage stopped at No. 9, Rue d'An- 
tin. Marguerite got out and went in alone. It 
was no doubt a mere chance, but the chance filled 
me with delight. 

From that time forward, I often met Margue- 
rite at the theatre or in the Champs-Elys^es. Al- 
ways there was the same gaiety in her, the same 
emotion in me. 

At last a fortnight passed without my meeting 
her. I met Gaston and asked after her. 

" Poor girl, she is very ill," he answered. 

"What is the matter?" 

" She is consumptive, and the sort of life she 
leads isn't exactly the thing to cure her. She has 
taken to her bed ; she is dying." 

The heart is a strange thing ; I was almost 
glad at hearing it. 

Every day I went to ask after her, without 
leaving my name or my card. I heard she was 
convalescent and had gone to Bagneres. 

Time went by, the impression, if not the mem- 
ory, faded gradually from my mind, I travelled ; 
love affairs, habits, work, took the place of other 


The Lady of the Camellias 

thoughts, and when* I recalled this adventure I 
looked upon it as one of those passions which 
one has when one is very young, and laughs at 
soon afterward. 

For the rest, it was no credit to me to have 
got the better of this recollection, for I had com- 
pletely lost sight of Marguerite, and, as I told 
you, when she passed me in the corridor of the 
Vari^t^s, I did not recognise her. She was veiled, 
it is true ; but, veiled though she might have been 
two years earlier, I should not have needed to 
see her in order to recognise her : I should have 
known her intuitively. All the same, my heart 
began to beat when I knew that it was she ; and 
the two years that had passed since I saw her, 
and what had seemed to be the results of that 
separation, vanished in smoke at the mere touch 
of her dress. 



However (continued Armand after a pause), 
while I knew myself to be still in love with 
her, I felt more sure of myself, and part of my 
desire to speak to Marguerite again was a wish 
to make her see that I was stronger than she. 

How many ways does the heart take, how 
many reasons does it invent for itself, in order to 
arrive at what it wants ! 

I could not remain in the corridor, and I 
returned to my place in the stalls, looking hastily 
around to see what box she was in. She was in a 
ground-floor box, quite alone. She had changed, 
as I have told you, and no longer wore an in- 
different smile on her lips. She had suffered ; 
she was still suffering. Though it was April, she 
was still wearing a winter costume, all wrapped 
up in furs. 

I gazed at her so fixedly that my eyes attracted 
hers. She looked at me for a few seconds, put 
up her opera-glass to see me better, and seemed to 
think she recognised me, without being quite sure 


The Lady of the Camellias 

who I was, for when she put down her glasses, a 
smile, that charming feminine salutation, flitted 
across her lips, as if to answer the bow which she 
seemed to expect ; but I did not respond, so as 
to have an advantage over her, as if I had forgot- 
ten, while she remembered. Supposing herself 
mistaken, she looked away. The curtain went up. 
I have often seen Marguerite at the theatre. I 
never saw her pay the slightest attention to what 
was being acted. As for me, the performance 
interested me equally little, and I paid no atten- 
tion to anything but her, though doing my utmost 
to keep her from noticing it. 

Presently I saw her glancing across at the 
person who was in the opposite box ; on look- 
ing, I saw a woman with whom I was quite 
familiar. She had once been a kept woman, and 
had tried to go on the stage, had failed, and, 
relying on her acquaintance with fashionable peo- 
ple in Paris, had gone into business and taken a 
milliner's shop. I saw in her a means of meeting 
with Marguerite, and profited by a moment in 
which she looked my way to wave my hand to 
her. As I expected, she beckoned to me to come 
to her box. 

Prudence Duvernoy (that was the milliner's 
auspicious name) was one of those fat women of 


The Lady of the Camellias 

forty with whom one requires very Httle diplo- 
macy to make them understand what one wants 
to know, especially when what one wants to know 
is as simple as what I had to ask of her. 

I took advantage of a moment when she was 
smiling across at Marguerite to ask her, " Whom 
are you looking at ? " 

" Marguerite Gautier." 

" You know her ? " 

" Yes, I am her milliner, and she is a neigh- 
bour of mine." 

" Do you live in the Rue d'Antin ?" 

"No. 7. The window of her dressing-room 
looks on to the window of mine." 

"They say she is a charming girl." 

" Don't you know her ? " 

" No, but I should like to." 

" Shall I ask her to come over to our box ?" 

" No, I would rather for you to introduce me 
to her." 

" At her own house ? " 

" Yes." 

"That is more difficult." 


" Because she is under the protection of a 
jealous old duke." 

"'Protection' is charming." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

*' Yes, protection," replied Prudence. " Poor 
old man, he would be greatly embarrassed to offer 
her anything else." 

Prudence then told me how Marguerite had 
made the acquaintance of the duke at Bagneres. 

" That, then," I continued, " is why she is alone 
here ? " 

" Precisely." 

" But who will see her home ?" 

" He will." 

" He will come for her?" 

" In a moment." 

" And you, who is seeing you home ? " 

" No one." 

"May I offer myself?" 

" But you are with a friend, are you not ?" 

" May we offer, then ?" 

" Who is your friend ? " 

" A charming fellow, very amusing. He will 
be delighted to make your acquaintance." 

"Well, all right; we will go after this piece 
is over, for I know the last piece." 

" With pleasure ; I will go and tell my friend." 

" Go, then. Ah," added Prudence, as I was 
going, " there is the duke just coming into Mar- 
guerite's box." 

I looked at him. A man of about seventy 

The Lady of the Camellias 

had sat down behind her, and was giving her a 
bag of sweets, into which she dipped at once, 
smiling. Then she held it out toward Prudence, 
with a gesture which seemed to say, " Will you 
have some ? " 

" No," signalled Prudence. 

Marguerite drew back the bag, and, turning, 
began to talk with the duke. 

It may sound childish to tell you all these 
details, but everything relating to Marguerite is 
so fresh in my memory that I can not help re- 
calling them now. 

Iwent back to Gaston and told him of the 
arrangement I had made for him and for me. 
He agreed, and we left our stalls to go round to 
Mme. Duvernoy's box. We had scarcely opened 
the door leading into the stalls when we had to 
stand aside to allow Marguerite and the duke to 
pass. I would have given ten years of my life 
to have been in the old man's place. 

When they were in the street he handed her 
into a phaeton, which he drove himself, and they 
were whirled away by two superb horses. 

We returned to Prudence's box, and when 
the play was over we took a cab and drove to 
7, Rue d'Antin. At the door. Prudence asked 
us to come up and see her show-rooms, which 


The Lady of the Camellias 

we had never seen, and of which she seemed very- 
proud. You can imagine how eagerly I accepted. 
It seemed to me as if I was coming nearer and 
nearer to Marguerite. I soon turned the conver- 
sation in her direction. 

" The old duke is at your neighbour's," I said 
to Prudence. 

" Oh, no ; she is probably alone." 

" But she must be dreadfully bored," said Gaston. 

" We spend most of our evenings together, or 
she calls to me when she comes in. She never 
goes to bed before two in the morning. She can't 
sleep before that." 


" Because she suffers in the chest, and is almost 
always feverish." 

" Hasn't she any lovers?" I asked. 

" I never see any one remain after I leave ; I 
don't say no one ever comes when I am gone. 
Often in the evening I meet there a certain 
Comte de N., who thinks he is making some 
headway by calling on her at eleven in the even- 
ing, and by sending her jewels to any extent ; 
but she can't stand him. She makes a mistake ; 
he is very rich. It is in vain that I say to her 
from time to time, ' My dear child, there's the 
man for you.' She, who generally listens to me, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

turns her back and replies that he is too stupid. 
Stupid, indeed, he is ; but it would be a position 
for her, while this old duke might die any day. 
Old men are egoists ; his family are always re- 
proaching him for his affection for Marguerite ; 
there are two reasons why he is likely to leave 
her nothing. I give her good advice, and she only 
says it will be plenty of time to take on the count 
when the duke is dead. It isn't all fun," contin- 
ued Prudence, "to live like that. I know very 
well it wouldn't suit me, and I should soon send 
the old man about his business. He is so dull ; 
he calls her his daughter; looks after her like a 
child ; and is always in the way. I am sure at 
this very moment one of his servants is prowling 
about in the street to see who comes out, and 
especially who goes in." 

" Ah, poor Marguerite ! " said Gaston, sitting 
down to the piano and playing a waltz. " I hadn't 
a notion of it, but I did notice she hasn't been 
looking so gay lately." 

" Hush," said Prudence, listening. Gaston 

" She is calling me, I think." 

We listened. A voice was calling, "Prudence !" 

" Come, now, you must go," said Mme. Duver- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Ah, that is your idea of hospitality," said 
Gaston, laughing ; "we won't go till we please." 

" Why should we go ? " 

" I am going over to Marguerite's." 

•' We will wait here." 

" You can't." 

" Then we will go with you." 

"That still less." 

" I know Marguerite," said Gaston ; " I can 
very well pay her a call." 

" But Armand doesn't know her." 

" I will introduce him." 

" Impossible." 

We again heard Marguerite's voice calling to 
Prudence, who rushed to her dressing-room win- 
dow. I followed with Gaston as she opened the 
window. We hid ourselves so as not to be seen 
from outside. 

" I have been calling you for ten minutes," 
said Marguerite from her window, in almost an 
imperious tone of voice. 

" What do you want ? " 

" I want you to come over at once." 


" Because the Comte de N. is still here, and he 
is boring me to death." ' 

" I can't now." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" What is hindering you ? " 

" There are two young fellows here who won't 


" Tell them that you must go out." 

'• I have told them." 

" Well, then, leave them in the house. They 
will soon go when they see you have gone." 

" They will turn everything upside down." 

" But what do they want ?" 

"They want to see you." 

" What are they called ? " 

" You know one, M. Gaston R." 

" Ah, yes, I know him. And the other ? " 

" M. Armand Duval ; and you don't know 

" No, but bring them along. Anything is bet- 
ter than the count. I expect you. Come at 

Marguerite closed her window and Prudence 
hers. Marguerite, who had remembered my face 
for a moment, did not remember my name. I 
would rather have been remembered to my disad- 
vantage than thus forgotten. 

" I knew," said Gaston, " that she would be de- 
lighted to see us." 

" Delighted isn't the word," replied Prudence, 
A§ ?he pu^ on b?r hat and gh^w!^ « §h? >vill §^9 

The Lady of the Camellias 

you in order to get rid of the count. Try to be 
more agreeable than he is, or (I know Margue- 
rite) she will put it all down to me." 

We followed Prudence downstairs. I trem- 
bled ; it seemed to me that this visit was to have a 
great influence on my life. I was still more agi- 
tated than on the evening when I was intro- 
duced in the box at the Op^ra Comique. As we 
reached the door that you know, my heart beat 
so violently that I was hardly able to think. 

We heard the sound of a piano. Prudence 
rang. The piano was silent. A woman who 
looked more like a companion than a servant 
opened the door. We went into the drawing- 
room, and from that to the boudoir, which was 
then just as you have seen it since. A young 
man was leaning against the mantel-piece. Mar- 
guerite, seated at the piano, let her fingers wander 
over the notes, beginning scraps of music without 
finishing them. The whole scene breathed bore- 
dom, the man embarrassed by the consciousness of 
his nullity, the woman tired of her dismal visitor. 
At the voice of Prudence, Marguerite rose, and 
coming toward us with a look of gratitude to 
Mme. Duvernoy, said : 

" Come in, and welcome." 


" Good-evening, my dear Gaston," said Mar- 
guerite to my companion. " I am very glad to 
see you. Why didn't you come to see me in my 
box at the Varidtes ? " 

" I was afraid it would be indiscreet." 

" Friends," and Marguerite lingered over the 
word, as if to intimate to those who were present 
that in spite of the familiar way in which she 
greeted him, Gaston was not and never had been 
anything more than a friend, "friends are always 

" Then, will you permit me to introduce M. 
Armand Duval ? " 

" I had already authorized Prudence to do so." 

" As far as that goes, madame," I said, bowing, 
and succeeding in getting more or less intelligible 
sounds out of my throat, " I have already had the 
honour of being introduced to you." 

Marguerite's beautiful eyes seemed to be look- 
ing back in memory, but she could not, or seemed 
not to, remember. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Madame," I continued, " I am grateful to 
you for having forgotten the occasion of my first 
introduction, for I was very absurd and must 
have seemed to you very tiresome. It was at 
the Op^ra Comique, two years ago ; I was with 
Ernest de ." 

" Ah, I remember," said Marguerite, with a 
smile. " It was not you who were absurd ; it was 
I who was mischievous, as I still am, but some- 
what less. You have forgiven me ? " 

And she held out her hand, which I kissed. 

" It is true," she went on ; "you know I have 
the bad habit of trying to embarrass people the 
first time I meet them. It is very stupid. My 
doctor says it is because I am nervous and always 
ill ; believe my doctor." 

" But you seem quite well." 

" Oh ! I have been very ill." 

" I know." 

"Who told you?" 

" Every one knew it ; I often came to inquire 
after you, and I was happy to hear of your con- 

" They never gave me your card." 

" I did not leave it." 

" Was it you, then, who called ever}' day while 
I was ill, and would never leave your name ? " 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Yes, it was I." 

"Then you are more than indulgent, you are 
generous. You, count, wouldn't have done that," 
said she, turning toward M. de N., after giving 
me one of those looks in which women sum up 
their opinion of a man. 

" I have only known you for two months," re- 
plied the count. 

"And this gentleman only for five minutes. 
You always say something ridiculous." 

Women are pitiless toward those whom they 
do not care for. The count reddened and bit his 

I was sorry for him, for he seemed, like myself, 
to be in love, and the bitter frankness of Mar- 
guerite must have made him very unhapp)-, espe- 
cially in the presence of two strangers. 

" You were playing the piano when we came 
in," I said, in order to change, the conversation. 
" Won't you be so good as to treat me as an old 
acquaintance and go on ? " 

" Oh," said she, flinging herself on the sofa and 
motioning to us to sit down, " Gaston knows what 
my music is like. It is all very well when I am 
alone with the count, but I won't inflict such a 
punishment on you." 

" You show me that preference ? " said M. de 
9 91 

The Lady of the Camellias 

N., with a smile which he tried to render deli- 
cately ironical. 

•' Don't reproach me for it. It is the only 
one." It was fated that the poor man was not to 
say a single word. He cast a really supplicating 
glance at Marguerite. 

*' Well, Prudence," she went on, " have you 
done what I asked you to do ? " 

" Yes." 

" All right. You will tell me about it later. 
We must talk over it ; don't go before I can speak 
with you." 

" We are doubtless intruders," I said, " and 
now that we, or rather I, have had a second intro- 
duction, to blot out the first, it is time for Gaston 
and me to be going." 

" Not in the least. I didn't mean that for 
you. I want you to stay." 

The count took a very elegant watch out of his 
pocket and looked at the time. " I must be going 
to my club," he said. Marguerite did not answer. 
The count thereupon left his position by the fire- 
place and going up to her, said : " Adieu, ma- 

Marguerite rose. " Adieu, my dear count. 
Are you going already ? " 

"Yes, I fear 1 am boring you." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" You are not boring me to-day more than any 
other day. When shall I be seeing you ? " 

" When you permit me." 

" Good-bye, then." 

It was cruel, you will admit. Fortunately, the 
count had excellent manners and was very good- 
tempered. He merely kissed Marguerite's hand, 
which she held out to him carelessly enough, and, 
bowing to us, went out. 

As he crossed the threshold, he cast a glance at 
Prudence. She shrugged her shoulders, as much 
as to say : "What do you expect? I have done 
all I could." 

*' Nanine ! " cried Marguerite. " Light M. le 
Comte to the door." 

We heard the door open and shut. 

*' At last," cried Marguerite, coming back, " he 
has gone ! That man gets frightfully on my 

" My dear child," said Prudence, " you really 
treat him too badly, and he is so good and kind to 
you. Look at this watch on the mantel-piece, that 
he gave you : it must have cost him at least three 
thousand francs, I am sure." 

And Mme. Duvemoy began to turn it over, as 
it lay on the mantel-piece, looking at it with covet- 
ous eyes. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" My dear," said Marguerite, sitting down to 
the piano, " when 1 put on one side what he gives 
me and on the other what he says to me, it seems 
to me that he buys his visits very cheap." 

"The poor fellow is in love with you." 

" If I had to listen to everybody who was in 
love with me, I shouldn't have time for my din- 

And she began to run her fingers over the 
piano, and then, turning to us, she said : 

" What will you take ? I think I should like 
a little punch." 

" And I could eat a little chicken," said Pru- 
dence. " Suppose we have supper ?" 

" That's it, let's go and have supper," said 

" No, we will have supper here." 

She rang, and Nanine appeared. 

" Send for some supper." 

"What must I get?" 

" Whatever you like, but at once, at once." 

Nanine went out. 

"That's it," said Marguerite, jumping like a 
child, " we'll have supper. How tiresome that 
idiot of a count is ! " 

The more I saw her, the more she enchanted 
me. She was exquisitely beautiful. Her slen- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

derness was a charm. I was lost in contem- 

What was passing in my mind I should have 
some difficulty in explaining. I was full of indul- 
gence for her life, full of admiration for her 
beauty. The proof of disinterestedness that she 
gave in not accepting a rich and fashionable young 
man, ready to waste all his money upon her, ex- 
cused her in my eyes for all her faults in the past. 

There was a kind of candour in this woman. 
You could see she was still in the virginity of vice. 
Her firm walk, her supple figure, her rosy, open 
nostrils, her large eyes, slightly tinged with blue, 
indicated one of those ardent natures which shed 
around them a sort of voluptuous perfume, like 
Eastern vials, which, close them as tightly as 
you will, still let some of their perfume escape. 
Finally, whether it was simple nature or a breath 
of fever, there passed from time to time in the 
eyes of this woman a glimmer of desire, giving 
promise of a very heaven for one whom she 
should love. But those who had loved Margue- 
rite were not to be counted, nor those whom she 
had loved. 

In this girl there was at once the virgin whom 
a mere nothing had turned into a courtesan, and 
the courtesan whom a mere nothing would have 

Vol. 13—5 95 

The Lady of the Camellias 

turned into the most loving and the purest of vir- 
gins. Marguerite had still pride and independ- 
ence, two sentiments which, if they are wounded, 
can be the equivalent of a sense of shame. I did 
not speak a word ; my soul seemed to have passed 
into my heart and my heart into my eyes. 

"So," said she all at once, "it was you who 
came to inquire after me when I was ill ?" 

" Yes." 

" Do you know, it was quite splendid of you ! 
How can I thank you for it ? " 

" By allowing me to come and see you from 
time to time." 

" As often as you like, from five to six, and 
from eleven to twelve. Now, Gaston, play the 
Invitation k la Valse." 


" To please me, first of all, and then because I 
never can manage to play it myself." 

"What part do you find difficult?" 

"The third part, the part in sharps." 

Gaston rose and went to the piano, and began 
to play the wonderful melody of Weber, the 
music of which stood open before him. 

Marguerite, resting one hand on the piano, 
followed every note on the music, accompanying 
it in a low voice, and when Gaston had come to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

the passage which she had mentioned to him, she 
sang out, running her fingers along the top of the 
piano : 

" Do, re, mi, do, re, fa, mi, re ; that is what 1 
can not do. Over again." 

Gaston began over again, after which Margue- 
rite said : 

** Now, let me try." 

She took her place and began to play ; but her 
rebellious fingers always came to grief over one of 
the notes. 

" Isn't it incredible," she said, exactly like a 
child, " that I can not succeed in playing that pas- 
sage ? Would you believe that I sometimes spend 
two hours of the morning over it ? And when I 
think that that idiot of a count plays it without 
his music, and beautifully, 1 really believe it is that 
that makes me so furious with him." 

And she began again, always with the same re- 

" The devil take Weber, music, and pianos ! " 
she cried, throwing the music to the other end of 
the room. *' How can I play eight sharps one 
after another ? " She folded her arms and looked 
at us, stamping her foot. The blood flew to 
her cheeks, and her lips half opened in a slight 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Come, come," said Prudence, who had taken 
off her hat and was smoothing her hair before the 
glass, "you will work yourself into a rage and do 
yourself harm. Better come and have supper ; for 
my part, I am dying of hunger." 

Marguerite rang the bell, sat down to the 
piano again, and began to hum over a very risky 
song, which she accompanied without difficulty. 
Gaston knew the song, and they gave a sort of 

" Don't sing those beastly things," I said to 
Marguerite, imploringly. 

"Oh, how proper you are!" she said, smiling 
and giving me her hand. 

" It is not for myself, but for you." 

Marguerite made a gesture as if to say, " Oh, 
it is long since that I have done with pro- 
priety ! " 

At that moment Nanine appeared. 

" Is supper ready ?" asked Marguerite. 

" Yes, madame, in one moment." 

'' A propos'' said Prudence to me, "you have 
not looked round ; come, and I will show you." 

As you know, the drawing-room was a marvel. 

Marguerite went with us for a moment ; then 
she called Gaston and went into the dining-room 
with him to see if supper was ready. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Ah," said Prudence, catching sight of a Httle 
Saxe figure on a side-table, " I never knew you 
had this little gentleman." 

" Which ? " 

"A little shepherd holding a bird-cage." 

"Take it, if you like it." 

" I won't deprive you of it." 

" I was going to give it to my maid. I think 
it hideous ; but if you like it, take it." 

Prudence only saw the present, not the way 
in which it was given. She put the little figure 
on one side, and took me into the dressing-room, 
where she showed me two miniatures hanging 
side by side, and said : 

"That is the Comte de G., who was very 
much in love with Marguerite ; it was he who 
brought her out. Do you know him ? " 

"No. And this one?" I inquired, pointing 
to the other miniature. 

"That is the little Vicomte de L. He was 
obliged to disappear." 


" Because he was all but ruined. That's one, 
if you like, who loved Marguerite." 

"And she loved him, too, no doubt ?" 

" She is such a queer girl, one never knows. 
The night he went away she went to the theatre 


The Lady of the Camellias 

as usual, and yet she had cried when he said 
good-bye to her." 

Just then Xanine appeared, to tell us that 
supper was served. 

When we entered the dining-room, Marguerite 
was leaning against the wall, and Gaston, holding 
her hands, was speaking to her in a low voice. 

" You are mad," replied Marguerite. " You 
know quite well that I don't want you. It is no 
good at the end of two years to make love to 
a woman like me. With us, it is at once, or 
never. Gome, gentlemen, supper I " 

And, slipping away from Gaston, Marguerite 
made him sit on her right at table, me on her left, 
then called to Nanine : 

" Before you sit down, tell them in the kitchen 
not to open to anybody if there is a ring." 

This order was given at one o'clock in the 

We laughed, drank, and ate freely at this 
supper. In a short while mirth had reached its 
last limit, and the words that seem funny to a 
certain class of people, words that degrade the 
mouth that utters them, were heard from time to 
time, amidst the applause of Nanine. of Prudence, 
and of Marguerite. Gaston was thoroughly 
amused ; he was a very good sort of fellow, but 


The Lady of the Camellias 

somewhat spoiled by the habits of his youth. For 
a moment I tried to forget myself, to force my 
heart and my thoughts to become indifferent to 
the sight before me, and to take my share of 
that gaiety which seemed like one of the courses 
of the meal. But little by little I withdrew 
from the noise ; my glass remained full, and I 
felt almost sad as I saw this beautiful creature 
of twenty drinking, talking like a porter, and 
laughing the more loudly the more scandalous 
was the joke. 

Nevertheless, this hilarity, this way of talking 
and drinking, which seemed to me in the others 
the mere results of bad company or of bad habits, 
seemed in Marguerite a necessity of forgetting, 
a fever, a nervous irritability. At every glass of 
champagne her cheeks would flush with a feverish 
colour, and a cough, hardly perceptible at the 
beginning of supper, became at last so violent 
that she was obliged to lean her head on the back 
of her chair and hold her chest in her hands every 
time that she coughed. 

I suffered at the thought of the injury to so 
frail a constitution which must come from daily 
excesses like this. At length, something which 
I had feared and foreseen happened. Toward 
the end of supper Marguerite was seized by a 


The Lady of the Camellias 

more violent fit of coughing than any she had 
had while I was there. It seemed as if her chest 
were being torn in two. The poor girl turned 
crimson, closed her eyes under the pain, and put 
her napkin to her lips. It was stained with a 
drop of blood. She rose and ran into her dress- 

" What is the matter with Marguerite ?" asked 

" She has been laughing too much, and she 
is spitting blood. Oh, it is nothing ; it happens 
to her every day. She will be back in a minute. 
Leave her alone. She prefers it," 

I could not stay still ; and, to the consternation 
of Prudence and Nanine, who called to me to 
come back, I followed Marguerite. 


1///-- I. A I /T.-i\./\ L'.v ,■( i/A/'..-< / .>(.'/■.(. i'.\/: iiA.\i> c'.V 


The room to which she had fled was lit 
only by a single candle. She lay back on a 
great sofa, her dress undone, holding one hand 
on her heart, and letting the other hang by her 
side. On the table was a basin half full of 
water, and the water w^as stained with streaks of 

Very pale, her mouth half open. Marguerite 
tried to recover breath. Now and again her 
bosom was raised by a long sigh, which seemed 
to relieve her a little, and for a few seconds she 
would seem to be quite comfortable. 

I went up to her ; she made no movement, 
and I sat down and took the hand which was 
lying on the sofa. 

" Ah ! it is you," she said, with a smile. 

I must have looked greatly agitated, for she 
added : 

" Are you unwell, too ? " 

" No, but you : do you still suffer ? " 

*' Very little ; " and she wiped off with her 

The Lady of the Camellias 

handkerchief the tears which the coughing had 
brought to her eyes ; " I am used to it now." 

" You are killing yourself, madame," I said to 
her in a moved voice. " I wish I were a friend, a 
relation of yours, that I might keep you from 
doing yourself harm like this." 

" Ah ! it is really not worth your while to alarm 
yourself," she replied in a somewhat bitter tone ; 
' see how much notice the others take of me ! They 
know too well that there is nothing to be done." 

Thereupon she got up, and, taking the candle, 
put it on the mantel-piece and looked at herself in 
the glass. 

" How pale I am ! " she said, as she fastened 
her dress and passed her fingers over her loosened 
hair. " Come, let us go back to supper. Are you 
coming ? " 

I sat still and did not move. 

She saw how deeply I had been affected by the 
whole scene, and, coming up to me, held out her 
hand, saying : 

" Come now, let us go." 

I took her hand, raised it to my lips, and in 
spite of myself two tears fell upon it. 

" Why, what a child you are ! " she said, sitting 
down by my side again. " You are crying I What 
is the matter ?" 


The Lady of the Camellias 

•' I must seem very silly to you, but I am 
frightfully troubled by what I have just seen." 

" You are very good ! What would you have 
of me ? I can not sleep. I must amuse myself a 
little. And then, girls like me, what does it mat- 
ter, one more or less ? The doctors tell me that 
the blood I spit up comes from my throat ; I pre- 
tend to believe them ; it is all I can do for them." 

*' Listen, Marguerite," I said, unable to contain 
myself any longer ; "I do not know what influ- 
ence you are going to have over my life, but at 
this present moment there is no one, not even 
my sister, in whom I feel the interest which I 
feel in you. It has been just the same ever since 
I saw you. Well, for Heaven's sake, take care 
of yourself, and do not live as you are living 

*' If I took care of myself I should die. All 
that supports me is the feverish life I lead. Then, 
as for taking care of oneself, that is all very w^ell 
for women with families and friends ; as for us, 
from the moment we can no longer serve the 
vanity or the pleasure of our lovers, they leave us, 
and long nights follow long days. I know it. I 
was in bed for two months, and after three weeks 
no one came to see me." 

" It is true I am nothing to you," I went on, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

*' but if you will let me, I will look after you like 
a brother, I will never leave your side, and I will 
cure you. Then, when you are strong again, you 
can go back to the life you are leading, if you 
choose ; but I am sure you will come to prefer a 
quiet life, which will make you happier and keep 
your beauty unspoiled." 

" You think like that to-night because the 
wine has made you sad, but you would never 
have the patience that you pretend to." 

'* Permit me to say. Marguerite, that you were 
ill for two months, and that for two months I 
came to ask after you every day." 

" It is true, but why did you not come up ?" 

" Because I did not know you then." 

" Need you have been so particular with a girl 
like me ? " 

" One must always be particular with a woman; 
it is what I feel, at least." 

" So you would look after me ?" 

" Yes." 

" You would stay by me all day ?" 

" Yes." 

•'And even all night ?" 

" As long as I did not weary you." 

" And what do you call that ?" 

" Devotion." 


The Ladv of the Camellias 

" And what does this devotion come from ?" 

" The irresistible sympathy which I have for 

" So you are in love with me ? Say it straight 
out, it is much more simple." 

" It is possible ; but if I am to say it to you 
one day, it is not to-day." 

** You will do better never to say it." 


" Because only one of two things can come 
of it." 


" Either I shall not accept : then you will have 
a grudge against me ; or I shall accept : then you 
will have a sorry mistress ; a woman who is nerv- 
ous, ill, sad, or gay with a gaiety sadder than grief, 
a woman who spits blood and spends a hundred 
thousand francs a year. That is all ver)' well 
for a rich old man like the duke, but it is very bad 
for a young man like you, and the proof of it is 
that all the young lovers I have had have very 
soon left me." 

I did not answer ; I listened. This frankness, 
which was almost a kind of confession, the sad 
life, of which I caught some glimpse through the 
golden veil which covered it, and whose reality 
the poor girl sought to escape in dissipation, drink, 
lo 107 

The Lady of the Camellias 

and wakefulness, impressed me so deeply that 1 
could not utter a single word. 

"Come," continued Marguerite, "we are talk- 
ing mere childishness. Give me your arm and let 
us go back to the dining-room. They won't know 
what we mean by our absence." 

"Go in, if you like, but allow me to stay here." 

" Why ? " 

" Because your mirth hurts me." 

"Well, I will be sad." 

" Marguerite, let me say to you something 
which you have no doubt often heard, so often 
that the habit of hearing it has made you beheve 
it no longer, but which is none the less real, and 
which I will never repeat." 

"And that is . . . ?" she said, with the smile 
of a young mother listening to some foolish notion 
of her child. 

" It is this, that ever since I have seen you, I 
know not why, you have taken a place in my life ; 
that, if I drive the thought of you out of my 
mind, it always comes back ; that when I met you 
to-day, after not having seen you for two years, 
you made a deeper impression on my heart and 
mind than ever ; that, now that you have let me 
come to see you, now that 1 know you, now that 
I know all that is strange in you, you have be- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

come a necessity of my life, and you will drive 
me mad, not only if you will not love me, but if 
you will not let me love you." 

" But. foolish creature that you are, 1 shall say 
to you, like Mme. D., * You must be very rich, 
then ! ' Why, you don't know that I spend six or 
seven thousand francs a month, and that I could 
not live without it ; you don't know, my poor 
friend, that I should ruin you in no time, and that 
your family would cast you off if you were to live 
with a woman like me. Let us be friends, good 
friends, but no more. Come and see me, we will 
laugh and talk, but don't exaggerate what I am 
worth, for I am worth very little. You have a 
good heart, you want some one to love you, you 
are too young and too sensitive to live in a world 
like mine. Take a married woman. You see, I 
speak to you frankly, like a friend." 

"But what the devil are you doing there?" 
cried Prudence, who had come in without our 
hearing her, and who now stood just inside the 
door, with her hair half coming down and her 
dress undone. I recognised the hand of Gaston. 

"We are talking sense," said Marguerite; 
" leave us alone ; we will be back soon." 

" Good, good ! Talk, my children," said Pru- 
dence, going out and closing the door behind her, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

as if to further emphasize the tone in which she 
had said these words. 

" Well, it is agreed," continued Marguerite, 
when we were alone, "you won't fall in love with 
me ? " 

" I will go away." 

" So much as that ?" 

I had gone too far to draw back ; and I was 
really carried aw^ay. This mingling of gaiety, 
sadness, candour, prostitution, her ver)' malady, 
which do doubt developed in her a sensitive- 
ness to impressions, as well as an irritability of 
nerves, all this made it clear to me that if from 
the very beginning I did not completely dom- 
inate her light and forgetful nature, she was lost 
to me. 

" Come, now, do you seriously mean what \ ou 
say ? " she said. 

" Seriously." 

" But why didn't you say it to mc sooner?" 

'* When could I have said it ?" 

"The day after you had been introduced to me 
at the Op^ra Cumique." 

" I thought you would have received me very 
badly if I had come to see you." 


" Because I had behaved so stupidly." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

"That's true. And yet you were already in 
love with me." 

" Yes." 

" And that didn't hinder you from going to 
bed and sleeping quite comfortably. One knows 
what that sort of love means." 

" There you are mistaken. Do you know 
what I did that evening, after the Opdra Co- 
mique ?" 


" I waited for you at the door of the Caf6 
Anglais. I followed the carriage in which you 
and your three friends were, and when I saw you 
were the only one to get down, and that you went 
in alone, I was very happy." 

Marguerite began to laugh. 

"What are you laughing at ?" 

" Nothing." 

" Tell me, I beg of you, or I shall think you 
are still laughing at me." 

" You won't be cross ? " 

" What right have I to be cross?" 

" Well, there was a sufficient reason why I 
went in alone." 


" Some one was waiting for me here." 

If she had thrust a knife into me she would 

The Lady of the Camellias 

not have hurt me more. I rose, and holding out 
my hand. " Good-bye," said I. 

" I knew you would be cross," she said ; " men 
are frantic to know what is certain to give them 

" But I assure you," I added coldly, as if wish- 
ing to prove how completely I was cured of my 
passion, "I assure you that I am not cross. It 
was quite natural that some one should be waiting 
for you, just as it is quite natural that I should go 
from here at three in the morning." 

" Have you, too, some one waiting for you ? " 

" No, but I must go." 

'• Good-bye, then." 

" You send me away ?" 

" Not the least in the world." 

" Why are you so unkind to me ? " 

" How have I been unkind to you ?" 

" In telling me that some one was waiting for 

" I could not help laughing at the idea that 
you had been so happy to see me come in alone 
when there was such a good reason for it." 

" One finds pleasure in childish enough things, 
and it is too bad to destroy such a pleasure when, 
by simply leaving it alone, one can make some- 
body so happy." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" But what do you think I am ? I am neither 
maid nor duchess. I didn't know you till to-day, 
and I am not responsible to you for my actions. 
Supposing one day I should become your mis- 
tress, you are bound to know that I have had 
other lovers besides you. If you make scenes of 
jealousy like this before, what will it be after, if 
that after should ever exist ? I never met any 
one like you." 

" That is because no one has ever loved you as 
I love you." 

"Frankly, then, you really love me?" 

"As much as it is possible to love, I think." 

"And that has lasted since ?" 

" Since the day I saw you go into Susse's, 
three years ago." 

" Do you know, that is tremendously fine ? 
Well, what am I to do in return ? " 

" Love me a little," I said, my heart beating so 
that I could hardly speak ; for, in spite of the half- 
mocking smiles with which she had accompanied 
the whole conversation, it seemed to me that Mar- 
guerite began to share my agitation, and that the 
hour so long awaited was drawing near. 

"Well, but the duke?" 

"What duke?" 

" My jealous old duke." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" He will know nothing." 

"And if he should ?" 

" He would forgive you." 

" Ah, no. he would leave me, and what would 
become of me ? " 

" Vou risk that for some one else." 

" How do you know?" 

" By the order you gave not to admit any one 

" It is true ; but that is a serious friend." 

*' For whom you care nothing, as you have 
shut your door against him at such an hour." 

" It is not for you to reproach me, since it was 
in order to receive you, you and your friend." 

Little by little I had drawn nearer to Mar- 
guerite. I had put my arms about her waist, and 
I felt her supple body weigh lightly on my clasped 

" If vou knew how much I love you !" I said 
in a low voice. 

"Really true?" 

" I swear it." 

" Well, if you will promise to do everything I 
tell you, without a word, without an opinion, with- 
out a question, perhaps I will say yes." 

" I will do everything that you wish I" 

" But I forewarn you I must be free to do as 

The Lady of the Camellias 

I please, without giving you the slightest details 
what I do. I have long wished for a young 
lover, who should be young and not self-willed, 
loving without distrust, loved without claiming 
the right to it. I have never found one. Men, 
instead of being satisfied in obtaining for a long 
time what they scarcely hoped to obtain once, 
exact from their mistresses a full account of the 
present, the past, and even the future. As they 
get accustomed to her, they want to rule her, and 
the more one gives them the more exacting they 
become. If I decide now on taking a new lover, 
he must have three very rare qualities : he must 
be confiding, submissive, and discreet." 

" Well, I will be all that you wish." 

"We shall see." 

" When shall w^e see ? " 

" Later on." 


" Because," said Marguerite, releasing herself 
from my arms, and, taking from a great bunch of 
red camellias a single camellia, she placed it in my 
buttonhole, " because one can not always carry 
out agreements the day they are signed." 

" And when shall I see you again ? " I said, 
clasping her in my arms. 

"When this camellia changes colour." 

The Lady of the Camellias 

"When will it change colour?" 

" To-morrow night between eleven and twelve. 
Are you satisfied ? " 

" Need you ask me ? " 

•' Not a word of this either to your friend or 
to Prudence, or to anybody whatever." 

" I promise." 

*' Now, kiss me, and we will go back to the 

She held up her lips to me, smoothed her hair 
again, and we went out of the room, she singing, 
and I almost beside myself. 

In the next room she stopped for a moment 
and said to mc in a low voice : 

" It must seem strange to you that I am ready 
to take you at a moment's notice. Shall I tell 
you why? It is," she continued, taking my hand 
and placing it against her heart so that I could 
feel how rapidly and violently it palpitated ; *' it is 
because I shall not live as long as others, and I 
have promised myself to live more quickly." 

" Don't speak to me like that, I entreat 

"Oh, make yourself easy," she continued, 
laughing ; " however short a time I have to live, I 
shall live longer than you will love me ! " 

And she went singing into the dining-room. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

"Where is, Nanine?" she said, seeing Gaston 
and Prudence alone. 

" She is asleep in your room, waiting till you 
are ready to go to bed," replied Prudence. 

" Poor thing, 1 am killing her ! And now, 
gentlemen, it is time to go." 

Ten minutes after, Gaston and I left the house. 
Marguerite shook hands with me and said good- 
bye. Prudence remained behind. 

" Well," said Gaston, when we were in the 
street, "what do you think of Marguerite?" 

" She is an angel, and I am madly in love with 

" So I guessed ; did you tell her so ?" 


"And did she promise to believe you ?" 

" No." 

" She is not like Prudence." 

" Did she promise to ? " 

" Better still, my dear fellow. You wouldn't 
think it ; but she is still not half bad, poor old 
Duvernoy ! " 



At this point Armand stopped. 

"Would you close the window for me?" he 
said. " I am beginning to feel cold. Meanwhile, I 
will get into bed." 

I closed the window. Armand, who was still 
ver)' weak, took off his dressing-gown and lay 
down in bed, resting his head for a few moments 
on the pillow, like a man who is tired by much 
talking or disturbed by painful memories. 

" Perhaps you have been talking too much," I 
said to him. ** Would vou rather for me to sfo 
and leave you to sleep ? Vou can tell me the rest 
of the story another day." 

"Are you tired of listening to it ?" 

"Quite the contrary." 

"Then I will go on. If you left me alone, I 
should not sleep." 

When I returned home (he continued, with- 
out needing to pause and recollect himself, so 
fresh were all the details in his mind), I did not 


The Lady of the Camellias 

go to bed, Init began to reflect over the day's 
adventure. The meeting, the introduction, thr 
promise of Marguerite, had followed one another 
so rapidly, and so unexpectedly, that there were 
moments when it seemed to me I had been dream- 
ing. Nevertheless, it was not the first time that a 
girl like Marguerite had promised herself to a man 
on the morrow of the day on which he had asked 
for the promise. 

Though, indeed, I made this reflection, the first 
impression produced on me by my future mistress 
was so strong that it still persisted. I refused ob- 
stinately to see in her a woman like other women, 
and, with the vanity so common to all men, I was 
ready to believe that she could not but share the 
attraction which drew me to her. 

Yet, I had before me plenty of instances to 
the contrary, and I had often heard that the affec- 
tion of Marguerite was a thing to be had more or 
less dear, according to the season. 

But, on the other hand, how was I to reconcile 
this reputation with her constant refusal of the 
young count whom we had found at her house ? 
You may say that he was unattractive to her, and 
that, as she was splendidly kept by the duke, she 
would be more likely to choose a man who was 
attractive to her, if she were to take another lover. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

If so, why did she not choose Gaston, who was 
rich, witty, and charming, and w^hy did she care 
for me, whom she had thought so ridiculous the 
first time she had seen me ? 

It is true that there are events of a moment 
which tell more than the courtship of a year. Of 
those who were at the supper, I was the only one 
who had been concerned at her leaving the table. 
I had followed her, I had been so affected as to be 
unable to hide it from her, I had wept as I kissed 
her hand. This circumstance, added to my daily 
visits during the two months of her illness, might 
have shown her that I was somewhat different 
from the other men she knew, and perhaps she 
had said to herself that for a love which could 
thus manifest itself she might well do what she 
had done so often that it had no more conse- 
quence for her. 

All these suppositions, as you may see, wxre 
improbable enough ; but whatever might have 
been the reason of her consent, one thing was 
certain, she had consented. 

Now, I was in love with Marguerite. I had 
nothing more to ask of her. Nevertheless, though 
she was only a kept woman, I had so anticipated 
for myself, perhaps to poetize it a little, a hope- 
less love, that the nmircr the moment approached 

1 20 

The Lady of the Camellias 

when I should have nothing more to hope, the 
more I doubted. I did not close my eyes all 

I scarcely knew myself. I was half demented. 
Now. I seemed to myself not handsome or rich 
or elegant enough to possess such a woman, 
now I was filled with vanity at the thought of 
it ; then I began to fear lest Marguerite had no 
more than a few days' caprice for me, and I said 
to myself that since we should soon have to part, 
it would be better not to keep her appointment, 
but to write and tell her my fears and leave her. 
From that I went on to unlimited hope, un- 
bounded confidence. I dreamed incredible dreams 
of the future ; I said to myself that she should 
owe to me her moral and physical recovery, that I 
should spend my \vhole life with her, and that her 
love should make me happier than all the maid- 
enly loves in the world. 

But I can not repeat to you the thousand 
thoughts that rose from my heart to my head, 
and that only faded away with the sleep that 
came to me at daybreak. 

When I awoke it was two o'clock. The 
weather was superb. I don't think life ever 
seemed to me so beautiful and so full of possibili- 
ties. The memories of the night before came 


The Lady of the Camellias 

to me without shadow or hindrance, escorted 
gaily by the hopes of the night to come. From 
time to time my heart leaped with love and joy in 
my breast. A sweet fever thrilled me. I thought 
no more of the reasons which had filled my mind 
before I slept. I saw only the result, I thought 
only of the hour when I was to see Marguerite 

It was impossible to stay indoors. My room 
seemed too small to contain my happiness. I 
needed the whole of nature to unbosom myself. 

I went out. Passing by the Rue d'Antin, 1 
saw Marguerite's coup6 waiting for her at the 
door. I went toward the Champs-Elys^es. I 
loved all the people whom I met. Love gives 
one a kind of goodness. 

After I had been walking for an hour from the 
Marly horses to the Rond-Point, I saw Margue- 
rite's carriage in the distance ; I divined rather 
than recognised it. As it was turning the cor- 
ner of the Champs-Elys^es it stopped, and a tall 
young man left a group of people with whom he 
was talking and came up to her. They talked for 
a few moments ; the young man returned to his 
friends, the horses set out again, and as I came 
near the group I recognised the one who had 
spoken to Marguerite as the Comte de G., whose 


The Lady of the Camellias 

portrait I had seen and whom Prudence had indi- 
cated to me as the man to whom Marguerite owed 
her position. It was to him that she had closed 
her doors the night before ; 1 imagined that she 
had stopped her carriage in order to explain to 
him why she had done so, and I hoped that at the 
same time she had found some new pretext for 
not receiving him on the following night. 

How I spent the rest of the day I do not 
know ; I walked, smoked, talked, but what I said, 
whom 1 met, I had utterly forgotten by ten 
o'clock in the evening. 

All I remember is that when 1 returned 
home, I spent three hours over my toilet, and 
I looked at my watch and my clock a hundred 
times, which unfortunately both pointed to the 
same hour, 

^Vhen it struck half past ten, I said to myself 
that it was time to go. 

I lived at that time in the Rue de Provence ; 
I followed the Rue du Mont-Blanc, crossed the 
Boulevard, went up the Rue Louis-le-Grand, the 
Rue de Port-Mahon, and the Rue d'Antin. I 
looked up at Marguerite's windows. There was a 
light. I rang. I asked the porter if Mile. Gau- 
tier was at home. He replied that she never came 
in before eleven or a quarter past eleven. I 
II 123 

The Lady of the Camellias 

looked at my watch. I intended to come quite 
slowly, and I had come in five minutes from the 
Rue de Provence to the Rue d'Antin. 

I walked to and fro in the street ; there are no 
shops, and at that hour it is quite deserted. In 
half an hour's time Marguerite arrived. She 
looked around her as she got down from her 
coup6, as if she were looking for some one. The 
carriage drove off ; the stables were not at the 
house. Just as Marguerite was going to ring, I 
went up to her and said, "Good-evening." 

"Ah, it is you," she said, in a tone that by no 
means reassured me as to her pleasure in seeing 

" Did you not promise me that I might come 
and see you to-day ? " 

" Quite right. I had forgotten." 

This word upset all the reflections I had made 
in the morning, and all the hopes I had had dur- 
ing the day. Nevertheless, I was beginning to 
get used to her ways, and I did not leave her, as 1 
should certainly have done once. We entered. 
Nanine had already opened the door. 

" Has Prudence come ?" said Marguerite. 

" No, madame." 

" Say that she is to be admitted as soon as 
she comes. But first put out the lamp in the 


The Lady of the Camellias 

drawing-room, and if any one comes, say that I 
have not come back and shall not be coming 

She was like a woman who is preoccupied 
with something, and perhaps annoyed by an un- 
welcome guest. I did not know what to do or 
say. Marguerite went toward her bedroom ; I 
remained where I was. 

" Come," she said. 

She took off her hat and her velvet cloak and 
threw them on the bed, then let herself drop into 
a great arm-chair beside the fire, which she kept 
till the very beginning of summer, and said to me 
as she fingered her watch-chain : 

"Well, what news have you got for me ?" 

" None, except that I ought not to have come 


" Because you seem vexed, and no doubt I 
am boring you." 

" You are not boring me ; only 1 am not well ; 
I have been suffering all day. I could not sleep, 
and I have a frightful headache." 

'* Shall I go away and let you go to bed ?" 

" Oh, you can stay. If I want to go to bed I 
don't mind your being here." 

At that moment there was a ring. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Who is coming now ? " she said, with an im- 
patient movement. 

A few minutes after there was another ring. 

" Isn't there any one to go to the door ? I 
shall have to go myself." 

She got up and said to me, "Wait here." 

She went through the rooms, and I heard her 
open the outer door. I listened, 

The person whom she had admitted did not 
come farther than the dining-room. At the first 
word I recognised the voice of the young Comte 
de N. 

" How are you this evening?" he said. 

" Not well," replied Marguerite drily. 

"Am I disturbing you ? " 

" Perhaps." 

" How you receive me ! What have I done. 
my dear Marguerite?" 

" My dear friend, you have done nothing. 1 
am ill ; I must go to bed, so you will be good 
enough to go. It is sickening not to be able to 
return at night without your making your ap- 
pearance five minutes afterward. What is it 
you want ? For me to be your mistress ? Well, I 
have already told you a hundred times, No ; you 
simply worry me, and you might as well go some- 
where else. I repeat to you to-day, for the last 


The Lady of the Camellias 

time, I don't want to have anything to do with you; 
that's settled. Good-bye. Here's Nanine coming- 
in ; she can light you to the door. Good-night." 

Without adding another word, or listening to 
what the young man stammered out, Marguerite 
returned to the room and slammed the door. 
Nanine entered a moment after. 

"Now understand," said Marguerite, "you arc 
always to say to that idiot that I am not in, or 
that I will not see him. I am tired out with 
seeing people who always want the same thing ; 
who pay me for it, and then think they are quit 
of me. If those who are going to go in for our 
hateful business only knew what it really was 
they would sooner be chambermaids. But no, 
vanity, the desire of having dresses and carriages 
and diamonds carries us away ; one believes what 
one hears, for here, as elsewhere, there is such a 
thing as belief, and one uses up one's heart, one's 
body, one's beauty, little by little ; one is feared 
like a beast of prey, scorned like a pariah, sur- 
rounded by people who always take more than 
they give ; and one fine day one dies like a dog 
in a ditch, after having ruined others and ruined 
one's self." 

" Come, come, madame, be calm," said Nanine ; 
"your nerves are a bit upset to-night." 

Vol. 13— G ^^/ 

The Lady of the Camellias 

"This dress worries me," continued Margue- 
rite, unhooking her bodice ; " give me a dressing- 
gown. Well, and Prudence ? " 

" She has not come yet, but I will send her 
to you, madame, the moment she comes." 

"There's one, now," Marguerite went on, as 
she took off her dress and put on a white dressing- 
gown, "there's one who knows very well how to 
find me when she is in want of me, and yet she 
can't do me a service decently. She knows I am 
waiting for an answer. She knows how anxious 
I am, and I am sure she is going about on her 
own account, without giving a thought to me." 

" Perhaps she had to wait." 

" Let us have some punch." 

" It will do you no good, madame," said 

" So much the better. Bring some fruit, too, 
and a paid or a wing of chicken ; something or 
other, at once. I am hungry." 

Need I tell you the impression which this 
scene made upon me, or can you not imagine it ? 

" You are going to have supper with mc," she 
said to me ; " meanwhile, take a book. I am going 
into my dressing-room for a moment." 

She lit the candles of a candelabra, opened a 
door at the foot of the bed, and disappeared. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

I began to think over this poor girl's life, and 
my love for her was mingled with a great pity. 
I walked to and fro in the room, thinking over 
things, when Prudence entered. 

"Ah, you here?" she said; "where is Mar- 
guerite ? " 

"In her dressing-room." 

" I will wait. By the way, do you know she 
thinks you charming ?" 

" No." 

"She hasn't told you?" 

" Not at all." 

" How are you here ? " 

" I have come to pay her a visit." 

" At midnight ? " 

"Why not?" 


" She has received me, as a matter of fact, 
very badly." 

" She will receive you better by and bye." 

"Do you think so?" 

" I have some good news for her." 

" No harm in that. So she has spoken to you 
about me ?" 

" Last night, or rather to-night, when you and 
your friend went. By the way, what is your 
friend called ? Gaston R., his name is, isn't it ?" 


The Lady of the Camellias 

•' Yes," said I, not without smiling, as I 
thought of what Gaston had confided to me, and 
saw that Prudence scarcely even knew his name. 

" He is quite nice, that fellow ; what does 
he do ? " 

"He has twenty-five thousand francs a year." 

" Ah, indeed ! Well, to return to you. Mar- 
guerite asked me all about you : who you were, 
what you did, what mistresses you had had ; in 
short, everything that one could ask about a man 
of your age. I told her all I knew, and added that 
you were a charming young man. That's all." 

" Thanks. Now tell me what it was she 
wanted to say to you last night." 

"Nothing at all. It was only to get rid of 
the count ; but I have really something to sec 
her about to-day, and I am bringing her an an- 
swer now." 

At this moment Marguerite reappeared from 
her dressing-room, wearing a coquettish little night- 
cap with bunches of yellow ribbons, technically 
known as "cabbages." She looked ravishing. 
She had satin slippers on her bare feet, and was 
in the act of polishing her nails. 

" Well," she said, seeing Prudence, " have you 
seen the duke ? " 

" Yes, indeed." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" And what did he say to you ? " 
"He gave me " 

"How much ? " 

" Six thousand." 

" Have you got it ?" 

' Yes." 

" Did he seem put out ?" 


" Poor man !" 

This " Poor man ! " was said in a tone impos- 
sible to render. Marguerite took the six notes of 
a thousand francs. 

" It was quite time," she said. " My dear Pru- 
dence, are you in want of any money ? " 

"You know, my child, it is the 15th in a 
couple of days, so if you could lend me three or 
four hundred francs, you would do me a real 

" Send over to-morrow ; it is too late to get 
change now." 

" Don't forget." 

" No fear. Will you have supper with us?" 

" No, Charles is waiting for me." 

" You are still devoted to him ?" 

"Crazy, my dear! I will see you to-morrow. 
Good-bye, Armand." 

Mme. Duvernoy went out. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Marguerite opened the drawer of a side-table 
and threw the bank-notes into it. 

"Will 3-ou permit me to get into bed?" she 
said with a smile, as she moved toward the bed. 

" Not only permit, but I beg of you." 

She turned back the covering and got into 

" Now," said she, "come and sit down by me, 
and let's have a talk." 

Prudence was right : the answer that she had 
brought to Marguerite had put her into a good 

"Will you forgive me for my bad temper to- 
night ? " she said, taking my hand. 

"I am ready to forgive you as often as you 

" And you love me ? " 

" Madly." 

" In spite of my bad disposition ?" 

" In spite of all." 

" You swear it ?" 

" Yes," I said in a whisper. 

Nanine entered, carrying plates, a cold chick- 
en, a bottle of claret, and some strawberries. 

" I haven't had any punch made," said Nanine ; 
"claret is better for you. Isn't it, sir?" 

" Certainly," I replied, still under the excite- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

ment of Marguerite's last words, my eyes fixed 
ardently upon her. 

" Good," said she ; " put it all on the little table, 
and draw it up to the bed ; we will help ourselves. 
This is the third night you have sat up, and you 
must be in want of sleep. Go to bed . I don't 
want anything more." 

"Shall I lock the door?" 

" I should think so ! And above all, tell them 
not to admit anybody before midday." 



At five o'clock in the morning, as the light be- 
gan to appear through the curtains, Marguerite 
said to me : " Forsrive me if I send vou awav ; 
but I must. The duke comes every morning ; 
they will tell him, when he comes, that I am 
asleep, and perhaps he will wait until I wake." 

I took Marguerite's head in my hands ; her 
loosened hair streamed about her ; I gave her a 
last kiss, saying : 

"When shall I see you again ?" 

** Listen," she said ; " take the little gilt key on 
the mantel-piece, open that door ; bring me back 
the key and go. In the course of the day vou 
shall have a letter, and my orders, for you know 
you are to obey blindly." 

" Yes ; but if I should already ask for some- 
thing ? " 


" Let mc have that key." 

" What you ask is a thing I have never done 
fur any one." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Well, do it for me, for I swear to you that I 
don't love you as the others have loved you." 

" Well, keep it ; but it only depends on me to 
make it useless to you, after all." 

" How ? " 

" There are bolts on the door." 

" Wretch ! " 

" I will have them taken off." 

" You love, then, a little ?" 

" I don't know how it is, but it seems to me as 
if 1 do ! Now, go ; I can't keep my eyes open." 

I held her in my arms for a few seconds and 
then went. 

The streets were empty, the great city was still 
asleep, a sweet freshness circulated in the streets 
that a few hours later would be filled with the 
noise of men. It seemed to me as if this sleep- 
ing city belonged to me ; I searched my memory 
for the names of those whose happiness I had 
once envied ; and I could not recall one without 
finding myself the happier. 

To be loved by a pure young girl, to be the 
first to reveal to her the strange mystery of love, 
is indeed a great happiness, but it is the simplest 
thing in the world. To take captive a heart which 
has had no experience of attack, is to enter an un- 
fortified and ungarrisoned city. Education, family 


The Lady of the Camellias 

feeling, the sense of duty, the family, are strong 
sentinels, but there are no sentinels so vigilant as 
not to be deceived by a girl of sixteen to whom 
nature, by the voice of the man she loves, gives 
the first counsels of love, all the more ardent be- 
cause they seem so pure. 

The more a girl believes in goodness, the more 
easily will she give way, if not to her lover, at least 
to love, for being without mistrust she is without 
force, and to win her love is a triumph that can be 
gained by any young man of five-and-twenty. See 
how young girls are watched and guarded ! The 
walls of convents are not high enough, mothers 
have no locks strong enough, religion has no 
duties constant enough, to shut these charming 
birds in their cages, cages not even strewn with 
flowers. Then how surely must they desire the 
world which is hidden from them, how surely 
must they find it tempting, how surely must they 
listen to the first voice which comes to tell its 
secrets through their bars, and bless the hand 
which is the first to raise a corner of the m}s- 
terious veil ! 

But to be really loved by a courtesan : that is 
a victory of infinitely greater difficulty. With 
them the body has worn out the soul, the senses 
have burned up the heart, dissipation has blunted 


The Lady of the Camellias 

the feelings. They have long known the words 
that we say to them, the means we use ; they 
have sold the love that they inspire. They love 
by profession, and not by instinct. They are 
guarded better by their calculations than a virgin 
by her mother and her convent ; and they have 
invented the word caprice for that unbartered 
love which they allow themselves from time to 
time, for a rest, for an excuse, for a consolation, 
like usurers, who cheat a thousand, and think 
they have bought their own redemption by once 
lending a sovereign to a poor devil who is dying 
of hunger without asking for interest or a receipt. 
Then, when God allows love to a courtesan, 
that love, which at first seems like a pardon, be- 
comes for her almost always a punishment. 
There is no absolution without penitence. When 
a creature who has all her past to reproach herself 
with is taken all at once by a profound, sincere, 
irresistible love, of which she had never felt her- 
self capable ; when she has confessed her love, 
how absolutely the man whom she loves domi- 
nates her ! How strong he feels with his cruel 
right to say: You do no more for love than 
you have done for money. They know not what 
proof to give. A child, says the fable, having 
often amused himself by crying " Help ! a wolf !" 


The Lady of the Camellias 

in order to disturb the labourers in the field, was 
one day devoured by a wolf, because those whom 
he had so often deceived no longer believed in his 
cries for help. It is the same with these unhappy 
women when they love seriously. They have lied 
so often that no one will believe them, and in the 
midst of their remorse they are devoured by their 

Hence those great devotions, those austere re- 
treats from the world, of which some of them 
have given an example. 

But when the man who inspires this redeeming 
love is great enough in soul to receive it without 
remembering the past, when he gives himself up 
to it, when, in short, he loves as he is loved, this 
man drains at one draught all earthly emotions, 
and after such a love his heart will be closed to 
every other. 

I did not make these reflections on the morn- 
ing when I returned home. They could but have 
been the presentiment of what was to happen to 
me, and, despite my love for Marguerite, I did not 
foresee such consequences. I make these reflec- 
tions to-day. Now that all is irrevocably ended, 
they arise naturally out of what has taken place. 

But to return to the first day of my liaison 
When I reached home I was in a state of mad 


The Lady of the Camellias 

gaiety. As I thought of how the barriers which 
my imagination had placed between Marguerite 
and myself had disappeared, of how she was now 
mine ; of the place I now had in her thoughts, of 
the key to her room which I had in my pocket, 
and of my right to use this key, I was satisfied 
with life, proud of myself, and I loved God be- 
cause he had let such things be. 

One day a young man is passing in the street, 
he brushes against a woman, looks at her, turns, 
goes on his way. He does not know the woman, 
and she has pleasures, griefs, loves, in which he 
has no part. He does not exist for her, and 
perhaps, if he spoke to her, she would only 
laugh at him, as Marguerite had laughed at me. 
Weeks, months, years pass, and all at once, when 
they have each followed their fate along a differ- 
ent path, the logic of chance brings them face to 
face. The woman becomes the man's mistress 
and loves him. How ? why ? Their two exist- 
ences are henceforth one ; they have scarcely 
begun to know one another when it seems as if 
they had known one another always, and all that 
had gone before is wiped out from the memory of 
the two lovers. It is curious, one must admit. 

As for me, I no longer remembered how I had 
lived before that night. Mv whole being was ex- 
" 139 

The Lady of the Camellias 

alted into joy at the memory of the words we 
had exchanged during that first night. Either 
Marguerite was very clever in deception, or she 
had conceived for me one of those sudden passions 
which are revealed in the first kiss, and which die, 
often enough, as suddenly as they were born. 

The more I reflected the more I said to myself 
that Marguerite had no reason for feigning a love 
which she did not feel, and I said to myself also 
that women have two ways of loving, one of 
which may arise from the other : they love with 
the heart or with the senses. Often a woman 
takes a lover in obedience to the mere will of the 
senses, and learns without expecting it the mys- 
tery of immaterial love, and lives henceforth only 
through her heart ; often a girl who has sought in 
marriage only the union of two pure affections 
receives the sudden revelation of physical love, 
that energetic conclusion of the purest impres- 
sions of the soul. 

In the midst of these thoughts I fell asleep ; I 
was awakened by a letter from Marguerite con- 
taining these words : 

" Here are my orders : To-night at the Vaude- 

" Come during the third entrade. 

•• M. G." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

I put the letter into a drawer, so that I might 
always have it at hand in case I doubted its real- 
ity, as I did from time to time. 

She did not tell me to come to see her during 
the day, and I dared not go ; but I had so great a 
desire to see her before the evening that I went 
to the Champs-Elys^es, where I again saw her 
pass and repass, as I had on the previous day. 

At seven o'clock I was at the Vaudeville. 
Never had I gone to a theatre so early. The 
boxes filled one after another. Only one remained 
empty, the stage box. At the beginning of the 
third act I heard the door of the box, on which my 
eyes had been almost constantly fixed, open, and 
Marguerite appeared. She came to the front 
at once, looked around the stalls, saw me, and 
thanked me with a look. 

That night she was marvellously beautiful. 
Was I the cause of this coquetry ? Did she love 
me enough to believe that the more beautiful she 
looked the happier I should be ? I did not know, 
but if that had been her intention she certainly 
succeeded, for when she appeared all heads turned, 
and the actor who was then on the stage looked 
to see who had produced such an effect on the 
audience by her mere presence there. 

And I had the key of this woman's room, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

and in three or four hours she would again be 
mine I 

People blame those who let themselves be 
ruined by actresses and kept women ; what aston- 
ishes me is that twenty times greater follies are 
not committed for them. One must have lived 
that life, as I have, to know how much the little 
vanities which they afford their lovers every day 
help to fasten deeper into the heart, since we have 
no other word for it, the love which he has for 

Prudence next took her place in the box, and 
a man, whom I recognised as the Comte de G., 
seated himself at the back. As I saw him, a cold 
shiver went through my heart. 

Doubtless Marguerite perceived the impres- 
sion made on me by the presence of this man, for 
she smiled to me again, and, turning her back to 
the count, appeared to be very attentive to the 
play. At the third entr'acte she turned and said 
two words : the count left the box, and Marguerite 
beckoned to me to come to her. 

" Good-evening," she said as I entered, hold- 
ing out her hand. 

" Good-evening," I replied to both Marguerite 
and Prudence. 

" Sit down." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

*' But I am taking some one's place. Isn't the 
Comte de G. coming back ? " 

" Yes ; I sent him to fetch some sweets, so 
that we could talk by ourselves for a moment, 
Mme. Duvernoy is in the secret." 

" Yes, my children," said she ; " have no fear. 
I shall say nothing." 

" What is the matter with you to-night ?" said 
Marguerite, rising and coming to the back of the 
box and kissing me on the forehead. 

" I am not very well." 

'' You should go to bed," she replied, with that 
ironical air which went so well with her delicate 
and witty face. 


"At home." 

" You know that I shouldn't be able to sleep 

" Well, then, it won't do for you to come 
and be pettish here because you have seen a man 
in my box." 

" It is not for that reason." 

" Yes, it is. I know ; and you are wrong, so 
let us say no more about it. You will go back 
with Prudence after the theatre, and you will stay 
there till I call. Do you understand ? " 

" Yes." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

How could I disobey ? 

" You still love me ?" 

" Can you ask ?" 

" You have thought of me ? " 

"All day long." 

" Do you know that I am really afraid that I 
shall get very fond of you ? Ask Prudence." 

" Ah," said she, " it is amazing ! " 

" Now, you must go back to your seat. The 
count will be coming back, and there is nothing 
to be gained by his finding you here." 


" Because you don't like seeing him." 

" No ; only if you had told me that you wanted 
to come to the Vaudeville to-night I could have 
got this box for you as well as he." 

" Unfortunately, he got it for me without my 
asking him, and he asked me to go with him ; 
you know well enough that I couldn't refuse. All 
I could do was to write and tell you where I was 
going, so that you could see me, and because I 
wanted to see you myself ; but since this is the 
way you thank me, I shall profit by the lesson." 

" I was wrong ; forgive me." 

" Well and good ; and now go back nicely 
to your place, and, above all, no more jealousy." 

She kissed me again, and I left the box. In 

The Lady of the Camellias 

the passage I met the count coming back. I re- 
turned to my seat. 

After all, the presence of M. de G. in Mar- 
guerite's box was the most natural thing in the 
world. He had been her lover, he sent her a 
box, he accompanied her to the theatre ; it was 
all quite natural, and if I was to have a mistress 
like Marguerite I should have to get used to her 

None the less, I was very unhappy all the rest 
of the evening, and went away very sadly after 
having seen Prudence, the count, and Marguerite 
get into the carriage, which was waiting for them 
at the door. 

However, a quarter of an hour later I was at 
Prudence's. She had only just got in. 



" You have come almost as quickly as we," 
said Prudence. 

*' Yes," I answered mechanically. " Where is 
Marguerite ? " 

"At home." 

•' Alone ? " 

••With M. dc G." 

I walked to and fro in the room. 

" Well, what is the matter ? " 

" Do you think it amuses mc to wait here till 
M. de G. leaves Marguerite's ?" 

" How unreasonable you are ! Don't you see 
that Marguerite can't turn the count out of doors? 
M. de G. has been with her for a long time ; lie 
has always given her a lot of money ; he still does. 
Marguerite spends more than a hundred thou- 
sand francs a year ; she has heaps of debts. The 
duke gives her all that she asks for, but she does 
not always venture to ask him for all that she is 
in want of. It would never do for her to quar- 
rel with the count, who is worth to her at least 


The Lady of the Camellias 

ten thousand francs a year. Marguerite is very 
fond of. you, my dear fellow, but your liaison with 
her, in her interests and in yours, ought not to be 
serious. You with your seven or eight thousand 
francs a year, what could you do toward supply- 
ing all the luxuries which a girl like that is in need 
of ? It would not be enough to keep her carriage. 
Take Marguerite for what she is, for a good, 
bright, pretty girl ; be her lover for a month, two 
months ; give her flowers, sweets, boxes at the 
theatre ; but don't get any other ideas into your 
head, and don't make absurd scenes of jealousy. 
You know whom you have to do with ; Margue- 
rite isn't a saint. She likes you, you are very fond 
of her ; let the rest alone. You amaze me when 
I see you so touchy ; you have the most charming 
mistress in Paris. She receives you in the great- 
est style, she is covered with diamonds, she needn't 
cost you a penny, unless you like, and you arc not 
satisfied. My dear fellow, you ask too much ! " 

" You are right, but I can't help it ; the idea 
that that man is her lover hurts me horribly." 

" In the first place," replied Prudence ; "is he 
still her lover ? He is a man who is useful to her, 
nothing more. She has closed her doors to him 
for two days ; he came this morning — she could 
not but accept the box and let him accompany 


The Lady of the Camellias 

her. He saw her home ; he has gone in for a mo- 
ment, he is not staying, because you are waiting 
here. All that, it seems to me, is quite natural. 
Besides, you don't mind the duke." 

" Yes ; but he is an old man, and I am sure 
that Marguerite is not his mistress. Then, it is 
all very well to accept one liaison, but not two. 
Such easiness in the matter is very like calcula- 
tion, and puts the man who consents to it, even 
out of love, very much in the category of those 
who, in a lower stage of society, make a trade of 
their connivance, and a profit of their trade." 

"Ah, my dear fellow, how old-fashioned you 
are ! How many of the richest and most fashion- 
able men of the best families I have seen quite 
ready to do what I advise you to do, and without 
an effort, without shame, without remorse ! Why, 
one sees it every day. How do you suppose the 
kept women in Paris could live in the style they 
do, if they had not three or four lovers at once ? 
No single fortune, however large, could suffice 
for the expenses of a woman like Marguerite. A 
fortune of five hundred thousand francs a year is, 
in France, an enormous fortune ; well, my dear 
friend, five hundred thousand francs a year would 
still be too little, and for this reason : a man 
with such an income has a large house, horses, serv- 


The Lady of* the Camellias 

ants, carriages ; he shoots, has friends, often he is 
married, he has children, he races, gambles, travels, 
and what not. All these habits are so much a 
part of his position that he can not forego them 
without appearing to have lost all his money, and 
without causing scandal. Taking it all round, 
with five hundred thousand francs a year he can 
not give a woman more than forty or fifty thou- 
sand francs in the year, and that is already a good 
deal. Well, other lovers make up for the rest of 
her expenses. With Marguerite, it is still more 
convenient ; she has chanced by a miracle on an 
old man worth ten millions, whose wife and 
daughter are dead ; who has only some nephews, 
themselves rich, and who gives her all she wants 
without asking anything in return. But she can 
not ask him for more than seventy thousand francs 
a year ; and I am sure that if she did ask for more, 
despite his wealth and the affection he has for her, 
he would not give it to her. 

" All the young men of twenty or thirty thou- 
sand francs a year at Paris, that is to say, men who 
have only just enough to live on in the society in 
which they mix, know perfectly well, when they 
are the lovers of a woman like Marguerite, that 
she could not so much as pay for the rooms she 
lives in and the servants who wait upon her with 


The Lady of the Camellias 

what they give her. They do not say to her that 
they know it ; they pretend not to see anything, 
and when they have had enough of it they go their 
way. If they have the vanity to wish to pay for 
everything they get ruined, like the fools they are, 
and go and get killed in Africa, after leaving a 
hundred thousand francs of debt in Paris. Do you 
think a woman is grateful to them for it? Far, 
from it. She declares that she has sacrificed her 
position for them, and that while she was with 
them she was losing money. These details seem 
to you shockinor ? Well, thev are true. You are 
a ver\' nice fellow ; I like vou verv much. I have 
lived with these women for twenty years ; I know 
what they are worth, and I don't want to see you 
take the caprice that a pretty girl has for you too 

" Then, besides that," continued Prudence ; 
" admit that Marguerite loves you enough to give 
up the count or the duke, in case one of them 
were to discover your liaiso7i and to tell her to 
choose between him and you, the sacrifice that she 
would make for you would be enormous, you can 
not deny it. What equal sacrifice could you make 
for her, on your part, and when you had got tired 
of her, what could you do to make up for what you 
had taken from her ? Nothing. Vou would have 

The Lady of the Camellias 

cut her off from the world in which her fortune 
and her future were to be found ; she would have 
given you her best years, and she would be forgot- 
ten. Either you would be an ordinary man, and, 
casting her past in her teeth, you would leave her, 
telling her that you were only doing like her other 
lovers, and vou would abandon her to certain mis- 
ery ; or you would be an honest man, and, feeling 
bound to keep her by you, you would bring inevi- 
table trouble upon yourself, for a liaison which is 
excusable in a young man, is no longer excusable 
in a man of middle age. It becomes an obstacle 
to everything ; it allows neither family nor am- 
bition, man's second and last loves. Believe me, 
then, my friend, take things for what they are 
worth, and do not give a kept woman the right to 
call herself your creditor, no matter in what." 

It was well argued, with a logic of which I 
should have thought Prudence incapable. I had 
nothing to reply, except that she was right ; I 
took her hand and thanked her for her counsels. 

" Come, come," said she, " put these foolish 
theories to flight, and laugh over them. Life is 
pleasant, my dear fellow ; it all depends on the 
colour of the glass through which one sees it. 
Ask your friend Gaston ; there's a man who seems 
to me to understand love as I understand it. All 

The Lady of the Camellias 

that you need think of, unless you are quite a fool, 
is that close by there is a beautiful girl who is 
waiting impatiently for the man who is with her 
to go, thinking of you, keeping the whole night 
for you, and who loves you, I am certain. Now, 
come to the window with me, and let us watch for 
the count to go ; he won't be long in leaving the 
coast clear." 

Prudence opened the window, and we leaned 
side by side over the balcony. She watched the 
few passers, I reflected. All that she had said 
buzzed in my head, and I could not help feeling 
that she was right ; but the genuine love which I 
had for Marguerite had some difficulty in accom- 
modating itself to such a belief. I sighed from 
time to time, at which Prudence turned, and 
shrugged her shoulders like a physician who has 
given up his patient. 

'* How one realizes the shortness of life," I 
said to myself, " by the rapidity of sensations ! I 
have only known Marguerite for two days, she has 
only been my mistress since yesterday, and she has 
already so completely absorbed my thoughts, my 
heart, and my life that the visit of the Comte de 
G. is a misfortune for me." 

At last the count came out, got into his 
carriage and disappeared. Prudence closed the 


The Lady of the Camellias 

window. At the same instant Marguerite called 
to us : ': 

" Come at once," she said ; " they are laying the 
table, and we'll have supper." 

When I entered, Marguerite ran to me, threw 
her arms around my neck and kissed me with all 
her might. 

" Are we still sulky ? " she said to me. 

" No, it is all over," replied Prudence. '* I 
have given him a talking to, and he has promised 
to be reasonable." 

" Well and good." 

In spite of myself I glanced at the bed ; it was 
not unmade. As for Marguerite, she was already 
in her white dressing-gown. We sat down to 

Charm, sweetness, spontaneity. Marguerite had 
them all, and I was forced from time to time to 
admit that I had no right to ask of her anything 
else ; that many people would be very happy to be 
in my place ; and that, like Virgil's shepherd, I had 
only to enjoy the pleasures that a god, or rather a 
goddess, set before me. 

I tried to put in practice the theories of Pru- 
dence, and to be as gay as my two companions ; 
but what was natural in them was on my part an 
effort, and the nervous laughter, whose source 


The Lady of the Camellias 

they did not detect, was nearer to tears than to 

At last the supper was over and I was alone 
with Marguerite. She sat down as usual on the 
hearthrug before the fire and gazed sadly into the 
flames. What was she thinking of ? I know not. 
As for me, I looked at her with a mingling of love 
and lerror. as I thought of all that 1 was ready to 
suffer for her sake. 

" Do you know what I am thinking of?" 

" No." 

" Of a plan that has come into my head." 

" And what is this plan ?" 

" I can't tell you yet, but I can tell you what 
the result would be. The result would be that in 
a month I should be free, I should have no more- 
debts, and we could go and spend the summer in 
the country." 

"And vou can't tell me bv what means?" 

" No, onlv love me as 1 love vou, and all will 

" And have you made this plan all by your- 

" Yes." 

" And you will carry it out all by your- 
self ? " 

*' I alone shall have the trouble of it," said 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Marguerite, with a smile which I shall never for- 
get, " but we shall both partake its benefits." 

I could not help flushing at the word benefits ; 
I thought of Manon Lescaut squandering with 
Desgrieux the money of M. de B. 

I replied in a hard voice, rising from my 
seat : 

" You must permit me, my dear Marguerite, 
to share only the benefits of those enterprises 
which I have conceived and carried out myself." 

•• What does that mean ? " 

"It means that I have a strong suspicion that 
M. de G. is to be your associate in this pretty 
plan, of which I can accept neither the cost nor 
the benefits." 

" What a child you are ! I thought you loved 
me. I was mistaken ; all right." 

She rose, opened the piano and began to play 
the Invitation k la Valse, as far as the famous pas- 
sage in the major which always stopped her. Was 
it through force of habit, or was it to remind me 
of the day when we first met ? All I know is that 
the melody brought back that recollection, and, 
coming up to her, I took her head between my 
hands and kissed her. 

" You forgive me ? " I said. 

" You see I do," she answered ; " but observe 
13 155 

The Lady of the Camellias 

that we are only at our second day, and already I 
have had to forgive you something. Is this how 
you keep your promise of blind obedience ? " 

" What can I do, Marguerite ? I love you too 
much and I am jealous of the least of your 
thoughts. What you proposed to me just now 
made me frantic with delight, but the mystery in 
its carrying out hurts me dreadfully." 

"Come, let us reason it out," she said, taking 
both my hands and looking at me with a charming 
smile which it was impossible to resist. " You 
love me, do you not ? and you would gladly spend 
two or three months alone with me in the coun- 
try ? I too should be glad of this solittide h deux, 
and not only glad of it, but my health requires it. 
I can not leave Paris for such a length of time 
without putting my affairs in order, and the af- 
fairs of a woman like me are always in great con- 
fusion ; well, I have found a way to reconcile 
everything, my money affairs and my love for 
you ; yes, for you, don't laugh ; I am silly enough 
to love you ! And here you are taking lordly airs 
and talking big words. Child, thrice child, only 
remember that I love you, and don't let anything 
disturb you. Now, is it agreed?" 

" I agree to all you wish, as you know." 

"Then, in less than a month's time we shall be 

The Lady of the Camellias 

in some village, walking by the river side, and 
drinking milk. Does it seem strange that Mar- 
guerite Gautier should speak to you like that ? 
The fact is, my friend, that when this Paris life, 
which seems to make me so happy, doesn't burn 
me, it wearies me, and then I have sudden aspira- 
tions toward a calmer existence which might re- 
call my childhood. One has always had a child- 
hood, whatever one becomes. Don't be alarmed ; 
I am not going to tell you that I am the daughter 
of a colonel on half-pay, and that I was brought 
up at Saint-Denis. I am a poor country girl, and 
six years ago I could not write my own name. 
You are relieved, aren't you ? Why is it you are 
the first whom I have ever asked to share the joy 
of this desire of mine ? I suppose because I feel 
that you love me for myself and not for yourself, 
while all the others have only loved me for them- 

" I have often been in the country, but never 
as I should like to go there. I count on you for 
this easy happiness ; do not be unkind, let me 
have it. Say this to yourself : * She will never 
live to be old, and I should some day be sorry for 
not having done for her the first thing she asked 
of me, such an easy thing to do ! ' " 

What could I reply to such words, especially 

The Lady of the Camellias 

with the memory of a first night of love, and in 
the expectation of a second ? 

An hour later I held Marguerite in my arms, 
and, if she had asked me to commit a crime, I 
would have obeyed her. 

At six in the morning I left her, and before 
leaving her I said : " Till to-night ! " 

She kissed me more warmly than ever, but 
said nothing. 

During the day I received a note containing 
these words : 

" Dear Child : I am not very well, and the 
doctor has ordered quiet. I shall go to bed early 
to-night and shall not see you. But, to make up, 
I shall expect you to-morrow at twelve. I love 

My first thought was : She is deceiving me ! 

A cold sweat broke out on my forehead, for I 
already loved this woman too much not to be 
overwhelmed by the suspicion. And yet, I was 
bound to expect such a thing almost any day with 
Marguerite, and it had happened to me often 
enough wnth my other mistresses, without my 
taking much notice of it. What was the mean- 
ing of the hold which this woman had taken 
upon my life ? 


The Lady of the Camellias 

Then it occurred to me, since I had the key, 
to go and see her as usual. In this way I should 
soon know the truth, and if I found a man there 
I would strike him in the face. 

Meanwhile I went to the Champs-Elys^es. I 
waited there four hours. She did not appear. At 
night I went into all the theatres where she was 
accustomed to go. She was in none of them. 

At eleven o'clock I went to the Rue d'Antin. 
There was no light in Marguerite's windows. All 
the same, I rang. The porter asked me where I 
was going. 

" To Mile. Gautier's," I said. 

" She has not come in." 

'* I will go up and wait for her." 

"There is no one there." 

Evidently I could get in, since I had the key, 
but, fearing foolish scandal, I went away. Only I 
did not return home ; I could not leave the street, 
and I never took my eyes off Marguerite's house. 
It seemed to me that there was still something to 
be found out, or at least that my suspicions were 
about to be confirmed. 

About midnight a carriage that I knew well 
stopped before No. 9. The Comte de G. got 
down and entered the house, after sending away 
the carriage. For a moment I hoped that the 

Vol. 13—7 ^59 

The Lady of the Camellias 

same answer would be given to him as to me, 
and that I should see him come out ; but at 
four o'clock in the morning I was still awaiting 

I have suffered deeply during these last three 
weeks, but that is nothing, I think, in comparison 
with what I suffered that night. 



When I reached home I began to cry like a 
child. There is no man to whom a woman has 
not been unfaithful, once at least, and who will 
not know what I suffered. 

I said to myself, under the weight of these 
feverish resolutions which one always feels as if 
one had the force to carry out, that I must break 
with my amour at once, and I waited impatiently 
for daylight in order to set out forthwith to rejoin 
my father and my sister, of whose love at least I 
was certain, and certain that that love would never 
be betrayed. 

However, I did not wish to go away without 
letting Marguerite know why I went. Only a 
man who really cares no more for his mistress 
leaves her without writing to her. I made and 
remade twenty letters in my head. I had had to 
do with a woman like all other women of the 
kind. I had been poetizing too much. She had 
treated me like a school-boy, she had used in de- 
ceiving me a trick which was insultingly simple. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

My self-esteem got the upper hand. I must 
leave this woman without giving her the satis- 
faction of knowing that she had made me suffer, 
and this is what I wrote to her in my most ele- 
gant handwriting and with tears of rage and sor- 
row in my eyes : 

" My Dear Marguerite : I hope that your 
indisposition yesterday was not serious. I came, 
at eleven at night, to ask after you, and was told 
that you had not come in. M. de G. was more 
fortunate, for he presented himself shortly after- 
ward, and at four in the morning he had not left. 

" Forgive me for the few tedious hours that I 
have given you, and be assured that I shall never 
forget the happy moments which I owe to you. 

" I should have called to-day to ask after you, 
but I intend going back to my father's. 

" Good-bye, my dear Marguerite. I am not 
rich enough to love you as I would nor poor 
enough to love you as you would. Let us then 
forget, you a name which must be indifferent 
enough to you, I a happiness which has become 

" I send back your key, which I have never 
used, and which might be useful to you, if you are 
often ill as you were yesterday." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

As you will see, I was unable to end my letter 
without a touch of impertinent irony, which 
proved how much in love I still was. 

I read and reread this letter ten times over ; 
then the thought of the pain it would give to 
Marguerite calmed me a little. I tried to persuade 
myself of the feelings which it professed ; and 
when my servant came to my room at eight 
o'clock, I gave it to him and told him to take it at 

"Shall I wait for an answer ?" asked Joseph 
(my servant, like all servants, was called Joseph). 

"If they ask whether there is a reply, you will 
say that you don't know, and wait." 

I buoyed myself up with the hope that she 
would reply. Poor, feeble creatures that we are ! 
All the time that my servant was away I was in 
a state of extreme agitation. At one moment I 
would recall how Marguerite had given herself to 
me, and ask myself by what right I wrote her an 
impertinent letter, when she could reply that it 
was not M. de G. who supplanted me, but I who 
had supplanted M. de G. : a mode of reasoning 
which permits many women to have many lovers. 
At another moment I would recall her promises, 
and endeavour to convince myself that my letter 
was only too gentle, and that there were not ex- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

pressions forcible enough to punish a woman who 
laughed at a love like mine. Then I said to my- 
self that I should have done better not to have 
written to her, but to have gone to see her, and 
that then I should have had the pleasure of seeing 
the tears that she would shed. Finally, I asked 
myself what she would reply to me ; already pre- 
pared to believe whatever excuse she made. 

Joseph returned. 

"Well?" I said to him. 

" Sir," said he, " madame was not up, and still 
asleep, but as soon as she rings the letter will be 
taken to her, and if there is any reply it will be 

She was asleep ! 

Twenty times I was on the point of sending 
to get the letter back, but every time I said to 
myself : " Perhaps she will have got it already, and 
it would look as if I have repented of sending it." 

As the hour at which it seemed likely that she 
would reply came nearer, I regretted more and 
more that I had written. The clock struck, ten, 
eleven, twelve. At twelve I was on the point of 
keeping the appointment as if nothing had hap- 
pened. In the end I could see no way out of the 
circle of fire which closed upon me. 

Then I began to believe, with the superstition 

The Lady of the Camellias 

which people have when they are waiting, that if 
I went out for a little while, I should find an an- 
swer when I got back. I went out under the pre- 
text of going to lunch. 

Instead of lunching at the Caf^ Foy, at the 
corner of the Boulevard, as I usually did, I pre- 
ferred to go to the Palais Royal and so pass 
through the Rue d'Antin. Every time that I saw 
a woman at a distance, I fancied it was Nanine 
bringing me an answer. I passed through the 
Rue d'Antin without even coming across a com- 
missionaire. I went to V(§ry's in the Palais Royal. 
The waiter gave me something to eat, or rather 
served up to me whatever he liked, for I ate noth- 
ing. In spite of myself, my eyes were constantly 
fixed on the clock. I returned home, certain that 
I should find a letter from Marguerite. 

The porter had received nothing, but I still 
hoped in my servant. He had seen no one since 
I went out. 

If Marguerite had been going to answer me 
she would have answered long before. 

Then I began to regret the terms of my letter ; 
I should have said absolutely nothing, and that 
would undoubtedly have aroused her suspicions, 
for, finding that I did not keep my appointment, 
she would have inquired the reason of my ab- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

sence, and only then I should have given it to her. 
Thus, she would have had to exculpate herself, 
and what I wanted was for her to exculpate her- 
self. I already realized that I should have be- 
lieved whatever reasons she had given me, and 
anything was better than not to see her again. 

At last I began to believe that she would come 
to see me herself ; but hour followed hour, and 
she did not come. 

Decidedly Marguerite was not like other 
women, for there are few who would have re- 
ceived such a letter as I had just written with- 
out answering it at all. 

At five, I hastened to the Champs-Elys^es. 
" If I meet her," I thought, " I will put on an in- 
different air, and she will be convinced that I no 
longer think about her." 

As I turned the corner of the Rue Royale, I 
saw her pass in her carriage. The meeting was so 
sudden that I turned pale. I do not know if she 
saw my emotion ; as for me, I was so agitated that 
I saw nothing but the carriage. 

I did not go any farther in the direction of the 
Champs-Elys^es. I looked at the advertisements 
of the theatres, for I had still a chance of seeing 
her. There was a first night at the Palais Royal. 
Marguerite was sure to be there. I was at the 


The Lady of the Camellias 

theatre by seven. The boxes filled one after an- 
other, but Marguerite was not there. I left the 
Palais Royal and went to all the theatres where 
she was most often to be seen : to the Vaudeville, 
the Vari^t^s, the Op^ra Comique. She was no- 

Either my letter had troubled her too much 
for her to care to go to the theatre, or she feared 
to come across me, and so wished to avoid an ex- 
planation. So my vanity was whispering to me 
on the boulevards, when I met Gaston, who asked 
me where I had been. 

" At the Palais Royal." 

" And I at the Op6ra," said he ; "I expected 
to see you there." 


" Because Marguerite was there." 

" Ah, she was there ?" 

" Yes." 


" No ; with another woman." 

"That all?" 

"The Comte de G. came to her box for 
an instant ; but she went off with the duke. I 
expected to see you every moment, for there was 
a stall at my side which remained empty the whole 
evening, and I was sure you had taken it," 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" But why should I go where Marguerite 
goes ? " 

" Because you are her lover, surely ! " 

"Who told you that?" 

" Prudence, whom I met yesterday. I give 
you my congratulations, my dear fellow ; she is a 
charming mistress, and it isn't everybody who has 
the chance. Stick to her ; she will do you credit." 

These simple reflections of Gaston showed me 
how absurd had been my susceptibilities. If I 
had only met him the night before and he had 
spoken to me like that, I should certainly not have 
written the foolish letter which I had written. 

I was on the point of calling on Prudence, and 
of sending her to tell Marguerite that I wanted to 
speak to her ; but I feared that she would revenge 
herself on me by saying that she could not see me, 
and I returned home, after passing through the 
Rue d'Antin. Again I asked my porter if there 
was a letter for me. Nothing ! She is waiting to 
see if I shall take some fresh step, and if I retract 
my letter of to-day, I said to myself as I went to 
bed ; but, seeing that I do not write, she will write 
to me to-morrow. 

That night, more than ever, I reproached my- 
self for what I had done. I was alone, unable to 
sleep, devoured by restlessness and jealousy, when 


The Lady of the Camellias 

by simply letting things take their natural course 
I should have been with Marguerite, hearing the 
delicious words which I had heard only twice, and 
which made my ears burn in my solitude. 

The most frightful part of the situation was 
that my judgment was against me ; as a matter of 
fact, everything went to prove that Marguerite 
loved me. First, her proposal to spend the sum- 
mer with me in the country, then the certainty 
that there was no reason why she should be my 
mistress, since my income was insufficient for her 
needs and even for her caprices. There could not 
then have been on her part anything but the hope 
of finding in me a sincere affection, able to give 
her rest from the mercenary loves in whose midst 
she lived ; and on the very second day I had 
destroyed this hope, and paid by impertinent 
irony for the love which I had accepted during 
two nights. What I had done was therefore not 
merely ridiculous, it was indelicate. I had not 
even paid the woman, that I might have some 
right to find fault with her ; withdrawing after 
two days, was I not like a parasite of love, afraid 
of having to pay the bill of the banquet ? What ! 
I had only known Marguerite for thirty-six 
hours ; I had been her lover for only twenty- 
four ; and instead of being too happy that she 


The Lady of the Camellias 

should grant me all that she did, I wanted to 
have her all to myself, and to make her sever at 
one stroke all her past relations which were the 
revenue of her future. What had I to reproach 
in her? Nothing. She had written to say she 
was unwell, when she might have said to me quite 
crudely, with the hideous frankness of certain 
women, that she had to see a lover ; and, instead 
of believing her letter, instead of going to any 
street in Paris except the Rue d'Antin, instead 
of spending the evening with my friends, and pre- 
senting myself next day at the appointed hour, I 
was acting the Othello, spying upon her, and 
thinking to punish her by seeing her no more. 
But, on the contrary, she ought to be enchanted 
at this separation. She ought to find me su- 
premely foolish, and her silence was not even that 
of rancour ; it was contempt. 

I might have made Marguerite a present which 
would leave no doubt as to my generosity and per- 
mit me to feel properly quits of her, as of a kept 
woman, but I should have felt that I was offend, 
ing by the least appearance of trafficking, if not 
the love which she had for me, at all evenwthe 
love which I had for her, and since this lo\T was 
so pure that it could admit no division, it could 
not pay by a present, however generous, the happi- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

ness that it had received, however short that hap 
piness had been. 

That is what I said to myself all night long, 
and what I was every moment prepared to go and 
say to Marguerite. When the day dawned I was 
still sleepless. I was in a fever. I could think of 
nothing but Marguerite. 

As you can imagine, it was time to take a de- 
cided step, and finish either with the woman or 
with one's scruples, if, that is, she would still be 
willing to see me. But you know well, one is 
always slow in taking a decided step ; so, unable 
to remain within doors and not daring to call on 
Marguerite, I made one attempt in her direction, 
an attempt that I could always look upon as a 
mere chance if it succeeded. 

It was nine o'clock, and I went at once to call 
upon Prudence, who asked to what she owed this 
early visit. I dared not tell her frankly w^hat 
brought me. I replied that I had gone out early 
in order to reserve a place in the diligence for 
C, where my father lived. 

" You are fortunate," she said, " in being able 
to pK away from Paris in this fine weather." 

I looked at Prudence, asking myself whether 
she was laughing at me, but her face was quite 

14 171 

The Lady of the Camellias 

*' Shall you go and say good-bye to Margue- 
rite ? " she continued, as seriously as before. 

" No." 

" You are quite right." 

"You think so?" 

" Naturally. Since you have broken with her, 
why should you see her again ? " 

" You know it is broken off ? " 

" She showed me your letter." 

" What did she say about it ? " 

" She said : ' My dear Prudence, your proUgi 
is not polite ; one thinks such letters, one does 
not write them.'" 

" In what tone did she say that ?" 

" Laughingly, and she added : ' He has had 
supper with me twice, and hasn't even called.' " 

That, then, was the effect produced by my letter 
and my jealousy. I was cruelly humiliated in the 
vanity of my affection. 

"What did she do last night ?" 

" She went to the opera." 

" I know. And afterward ?" 

" She had supper at home." ^^ 

"Alone?" W 

" With the Comte de G., I believe." 

So my breaking with her had not changed one 
of her habits. It is for such reasons as this that 



The Lady of the Camellias 

certain people say to you : Don't have anything 
more to do with the woman ; she cares nothing 
about you. 

" Well, I am very glad to find that Marguerite 
docs not put herself out for me," I said with a 
forced smile. 

" She has very good reason not to. You have 
done what you were bound to do. You have been 
more reasonable than she, for she was really in 
love with you ; she did nothing but talk of you. 
I don't know what she would not have been 
capable of doing." 

" Why hasn't she answered me, if she was in 
love with me ? " 

" Because she realizes she was mistaken in let- 
ting herself love you. Women sometimes allow 
you to be unfaithful to their love ; they never 
allow you to wound their self-esteem ; and one 
always wounds the self-esteem of a woman when, 
two days after one has become her lover, one 
leaves her, no matter for what reason. I know 
Marguerite ; she would die sooner than reply." 

"What can I do, then?" 

" Nothing. She will forget you, you will for- 
get her, and neither will have any reproach to 
make against the other." 

" But if I write and ask her forgiveness?" 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Don't do that, for she would forgive you." 
I could have flung my arms round Prudence's 


A quarter of an hour later I was once more in 

my own quarters, and I wrote to Marguerite: 

" Some one, who repents of a letter that he 
wrote yesterday and who will leave Paris to-mor- 
row if you do not forgive him, wishes to know 
at what hour he might lay his repentance at your 

" When can he find you alone ? for, you 
know, confessions must be made without wit- 

I folded this kind of madrigal in prose, and 
sent it by Joseph, who handed it to Marguerite 
herself ; she replied that she would send the 
answer later. 

I only went out to have a hasty dinner, and 
at eleven in the evening no reply had come. I 
made up my mind to endure it no longer, and 
to set out next day. In consequence of this 
resolution, and convinced that I should not sleep 
if I went to bed, I began to pack up my things. 



It was hardly an hour after Joseph and I had 
begun preparing for my departure, when there 
was a violent ring at the door. 

" Shall I go to the door?" said Joseph. 

" Go," I said, asking myself who it could be at 
such an hour, and not daring to believe that it was 

" Sir," said Joseph coming back to me, '* it is 
two ladies." 

" It is we, Armand," cried a voice that I rec- 
ognised as that of Prudence. 

I came out of my room. Prudence was stand- 
ing looking around the place ; Marguerite, seated 
on the sofa, was meditating. I went to her, knelt 
down, took her two hands, and, deeply moved, said 
to her, " Pardon." 

She kissed me on the forehead, and said : 

" This is the third time that I have forgiven 

" I should have gone away to-morrow." 

" How can my visit change your plans ? I 

The Lady of the Camellias 

have not come to hinder you from leaving Paris. 
I have come because I had no time to answer you 
during the day, and I did not wish to let you think 
that I was angry with you. Prudence didn't want 
me to come ; she said that I might be in the way." 

" You in the way, Marguerite ! But how ?" 

"Well, you might have had a woman here," 
said Prudence, " and it would hardly have been 
amusing for her to see two more arrive." 

During this remark Marguerite looked at me 

" My dear Prudence," I answered, "you do not 
know what you are saying." 

" What a nice place you've got ! " Prudence 
went on. " May we see the bedroom ?" 

" Yes." 

Prudence went into the bedroom, not so much 
to see it as to make up for the foolish thing which 
she had just said, and to leave Marguerite and me 

" Why did you bring Prudence ? " I asked her. 

" Because she was at the theatre with me, and 
because when I leave here- 1 want to have some 
one to see me home." 

"Could not I do?" 

" Yes, but, besides not wishing to put you out, 
I was sure that if you came as far as my door you 



The Lady of me Camellias 

would want to come up, and as I could not let 
you, I did not wish to let you go away blaming 
me for saying 'No.'" 

" And why could you not let me come up ? " 

** Because I am watched, and the least suspicion 
might do me the greatest harm." 

" Is that really the only reason ?" 

" If there were any other, I would tell you ; 
for we are not to have any secrets from one an- 
other now." 

" Come, Marguerite, I am not going to take a 
roundabout way of saying what I really want to 
say. Honestly, do you care for me a little ? " 

" A great deal." 

" Then why did you deceive me ? " 

" My friend, if I were the Duchess So and So, 
if I had two hundred thousand francs a year, and 
if I were your mistress and had another lover, you 
would have the right to ask me ; but I am Mile. 
Marguerite Gautier, I am forty thousand francs 
in debt, I have not a penny of my own, and I 
spend a hundred thousand francs a year. Your 
question becomes unnecessary and my answer use- 

" You are right," I said, letting my head sink 
on her knees ; " but I love you madly." 

" Well, my friend, you must either love mc a 

The Lady of the Camellias 

little less or understand me a little better. Your 
letter gave me a great deal of pain. If I had 
been free, first of all I would not have seen the 
count the day before yesterday, or, if I had, I 
should have come and asked your forgiveness as 
you ask me now, and in future I should have had 
no other lover but you. I fancied for a moment 
that I might give myself that happiness for six 
months ; you would not have it ; you insisted on 
knowing the means. Well, good heavens, the 
means were easy enough to guess ! In employing 
them I was making a greater sacrifice for you than 
you imagine. I might have said to you, ' I want 
twenty thousand francs ' ; you were in love with 
me and you would have found them, at the risk of 
reproaching me for it later on. I preferred to owe 
you nothing ; you did not understand the scruple, 
for such it was. Those of us who are like me, 
when we have any heart at all, we give a meaning 
and a development to words and things unknown 
to other women ; I repeat, then, that on the part 
of Marguerite Gautier the means which she used 
to pay her debts without asking you for the 
money necessary for it, was a scruple by which 
you ought to profit, without saying anything. If 
you had only met me to-day, you w^ould be too de- 
lighted with what I promised you, and you would 


The Lady of the Camellias 

not question me as to what I did the day before 
yesterday. We are sometimes obliged to buy the 
satisfaction of our souls at the expense of our 
bodies, and we suffer still more, when, afterward, 
that satisfaction is denied us." 

I listened, and I gazed at Marguerite with ad- 
miration. When I thought that this marvellous 
creature, whose feet I had once longed to kiss, 
was willing to let me take my place in her 
thoughts, my part in her life, and that I was not 
yet content with what she gave me, I asked if 
man's desire has indeed limits when, satisfied as 
promptly as mine had been, it reached after some- 
thing further. 

"Truly," she continued, "we poor creatures of 
chance have fantastic desires and inconceivable 
loves. We give ourselves now for one thing, now 
for another. There are men who ruin themselves 
without obtaining the least thing from us ; there 
are others who obtain us for a bouquet of flowers. 
Our hearts have their caprices ; it is their one dis- 
traction and their one excuse. I gave myself to 
you sooner than I ever did to any man, I swear to 
you ; and do you know why ? Because when you 
saw me spitting blood you took my hand ; be- 
cause you wept ; because you are the only human 
being who has ever pitied me. I am going to say 


The Lady of the Camellias 

a mad thing to you : I once had a Httle dog who 
looked at me with a sad look when I coughed ; 
that is the only creature I ever loved. When he 
died I cried more than when my mother died. It 
is true that for twelve years of her life she used 
to beat me. Well, I loved you all at once, as 
much as my dog. If men knew what they can 
have for a tear, they would be better loved and 
we should be less ruinous to them. 

" Your letter undeceived me ; it showed me 
that you lacked the intelligence of the heart ; it 
did you more harm with me than anything you 
could possibly have done. It was jealousy cer- 
tainly, but ironical and impertinent jealousy. I 
was already feeling sad when I received your 
letter. I was looking forward to seeing you at 
twelve, to having lunch with you, and wiping out, 
by seeing you, a thought which was with me inces- 
santly, and which, before I knew you, I had no 
difficulty in tolerating. 

" Then," continued Marguerite, "you were the 
only person before whom it seemed to me, from 
the first, that I could think and speak freely. All 
those who come about women like me have an 
interest in calculating their slightest words, in 
thinking of the consequences of their most insig- 
nificant actions. Naturally we have no friends. 

1 30 

The Lady of the Camellias 

We have selfish lovers who spend their fortunes, 
not on us, as they say, but on their own vanity. 
For these people we have to be merry when they 
are merry, well when they want to sup, sceptics 
like themselves. We are not allowed to have 
hearts, under penalty of being hooted down and 
of ruining our credit. 

" We no longer belong to ourselves. We are 
no longer beings, but things. We stand first in 
their self-esteem, last in their esteem. We have 
women who call themselves our friends, but they 
are friends like Prudence, women who were once 
kept and who have still the costly tastes that their 
age does not allow them to gratify. Then they 
become our friends, or rather our guests at table. 
Their friendship is carried to the point of servility, 
never to that of disinterestedness. Never do they 
give you advice which is not lucrative. It means 
little enough to them that we should have ten 
lovers extra, as long as they get dresses or a brace- 
let out of them, and that they can drive in our 
carriage from time to time or come to our box at 
the theatre. They have our last night's bouquets, 
and they borrow our shawls. They never render 
us a service, however slight, without seeing that 
they are paid twice its value. You yourself saw 
when Prudence brought me the six thousand 


The Lady of the Camellias 

francs that I had asked her to get from the duke, 
how she borrowed five hundred francs, which she 
will never pay me back, or which she will pay me 
in hats, which will never be taken out of their 

" We can not, then, have, or rather I can not 
have more than one possible kind of happiness, 
and this is, sad as I sometimes am, suffering as I 
always am, to find a man superior enough not to 
ask questions about my Hfe, and to be the lover of 
my impressions rather than of my body. Such a 
man I found in the duke ; but the duke is old, and 
old age neither protects nor consoles. I thought 
I could accept the life which he offered me ; but 
what would you have ? I was dying of ennui, 
and if one is bound to be consumed, it is as 
well to throw oneself into the flames as to be 
asphyxiated with charcoal. 

" Then I met you, young, ardent, happy, and 
I tried to make you the man I had longed for 
in my noisy solitude. What I loved in you was 
not the man who was, but the man who was going 
to be. You do not accept the position, you reject 
it as unworthy of you ; you are an ordinary lover. 
Do like the others ; pay me, and say no more 
about it." 

Marguerite, tired out with this long confession, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

threw herself back on the sofa, and to stifle a slight 
cough put up her handkerchief to her lips, and 
from that to her eyes. 

" Pardon, pardon," I murmured. " I under- 
stood it all, but I wanted to have it from your 
own lips, my beloved Marguerite. Forget the 
rest and remember only one thing : that we belong 
to one another, that we are young, and that we 
love. Marguerite, do with me as you will ; I am 
your slave, your dog, but in the name of heaven 
tear up the letter which I wrote to you and do 
not make me leave you to-morrow ; it would kill 

Marguerite drew the letter from her bosom, 
and handing it to me with a smile of infinite 
sweetness, said : 

" Here it is. I have brought it back." 

I tore the letter into fragments and kissed with 
tears the hand that gave it to me. 

At this moment Prudence reappeared. 

" Look here, Prudence ; do you know what he 
wants?" said Marguerite. 

" He wants you to forgive him." 

" Precisely." 

"And you do?" 

" One has to ; but he wants more than that." 

"What, then?" 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" He wants to have supper with us." 

" And do you consent ?" 

"What do you think?" 

" I think that you are two children who 
haven't an atom of sense between you ; but I 
also think that I am very hungry, and that the 

sooner you consent the sooner we shall have sup- 


" Come," said Marguerite, " there is room for 
the three of us in my carriage." 

" By the way," she added, turning to me, "Na- 
nine will be gone to bed. You must open the 
door ; take my key, and try not to lose it again." 

I embraced Marguerite until she was almost 

Thereupon Joseph entered. 

" Sir," he said, with the air of a man who is 
very well satisfied with himself, "the luggage is 

"All of it?" 

" Yes, sir." 

" Well, then, unpack it again ; I am not 



I MIGHT have told you of the beginning of 
this liaison in a few lines, but I wanted you to 
see every step by which we came, I to agree to 
whatever Marguerite wished, Marguerite to be 
unable to live apart from me. 

It was the day after the evening when she 
came to see me that I sent her Manon Lescaut. 

From that time, seeing that I could not change 
my mistress's life, I changed my own. I wished 
above all not to leave myself time to think over 
the position I had accepted, for, in spite of myself, 
it was a great distress to me. Thus my life, gen- 
erally so calm, assumed all at once an appearance 
of noise and disorder. Never believe, however 
disinterested the love of a kept woman may be, 
that it will cost one nothing. Nothing is so ex- 
pensive as their caprices, flowers, boxes at the 
theatre, suppers, days in the country, which one 
can never refuse to one's mistress. 

As I have told you, I had little money. My 
father was, and still is, receveur giniral at C. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

He has a great reputation there for loyalty, thanks 
to which he was able to find the security which 
he needed in order to attain this position. It is 
worth forty thousand francs a year, and during the 
ten years that he has had it, he has paid off the 
security and put aside a dowry for my sister. My 
father is the most honourable man in the world. 
When my mother died, she left six thousand 
francs a year, which he divided between my sister 
and myself on the very day when he received his 
appointment ; then, when I was twenty-one, he 
added to this little income an annual allowance of 
five thousand francs, assuring me that with eight 
thousand francs a year I might live very happily 
at Paris, if, in addition to this, I would make a 
position for myself either in law or medicine. I 
came to Paris, studied law, was called to the bar, 
and, like many other young men, put my diploma 
in my pocket, and let myself drift, as one so easily 
does in Paris. 

My expenses were very moderate ; only I used 
up my year's income in eight months, and spent the 
four summer months with my father, which prac- 
tically gave me twelve thousand francs a year, and, 
in addition, the reputation of a good son. For 
the rest, not a penny of debt. 

This, then, was my position when I made the 
1 86 

The Lady of the Camellias 

acquaintance of Marguerite. You can well under- 
stand that, in spite of myself, my expenses soon 
increased. Marguerite's nature was very capricious, 
and, like so many women, she never regarded as a 
serious expense those thousand and one distrac- 
tions which made up her life. So, wishing to 
spend as much time with me as possible, she 
would write to me in the morning that she would 
dine with me, not at home, but at some restaurant 
in Paris or in the country. I would call for her, 
and we would dine and go on to the theatre, often 
having supper as well ; and by the end of the 
evening I had spent four or five louis, which 
came to two or three thousand francs a month, 
which reduced my year to three months and a 
half, and made it necessary for me either to go 
into debt or to leave Marguerite. I would have 
consented to anything except the latter. 

Forgive me if I give you all these details, but 
you will see that they were the cause of what was 
to follow. What I tell you is a true and simple 
story, and I leave to it all the naiveU of its details 
and all the simplicity of its developments. 

I realized then that as nothing in the world 

would make me forget my mistress, it was needful 

for me to find some way of meeting the expenses 

into which she drew me. Then, too, my love for 

15 187 

The Lady of the Camellias 

her had so disturbing an influence upon me that 
every moment I spent away from Marguerite was 
like a year, and that I felt the need of consuming 
these moments in the fire of some sort of passion, 
and of living them so swiftly as not to know that 
I was living them. 

I began by borrowing five or six thousand 
francs on my little capital, and with this I took 
to gambling. Since gambling houses were de- 
stroyed gambling goes on everywhere. Formerly, 
when one went to Frascati, one had the chance 
of making a fortune ; one played against money, 
and if one lost, there was always the consolation 
of saying that one might have gained ; whereas 
now, except in the clubs, where there is still a 
certain rigour in regard to payments, one is al- 
most certain, the moment one gains a considerable 
sum, not to receive it. You will readily under- 
stand why. 

Gambling is only likely to be carried on by 
young people very much in need of money and 
not possessing the fortune necessary for support- 
ing the life they lead ; they gamble, then, and 
with this result ; or else they gain, and then those 
who lose serve to pay for their horses and mis- 
tresses, which is very disagreeable. Debts are 
contracted, acquaintances begun about a green 


The Lady of the Camellias 

table end by quarrels in which life or honour 
comes to grief ; and though one may be an hon- 
est man, one finds oneself ruined by very honest 
men, whose only defect is that they have not 
two hundred thousand francs a year. 

I need not tell you of those who cheat at play, 
and of how one hears one fine day of their hasty 
disappearance and tardy condemnation. 

I flung myself into this rapid, noisy, and vol- 
canic life, which had formerly terrified me when 
I thought of it, and which had become for me 
the necessary complement of my love for Mar- 
guerite. What else could I have done ? 

The nights that I did not spend in the Rue 
d'Antin, if I had spent them alone in my own 
room, I could not have slept. Jealousy would 
have kept me awake, and inflamed my blood and 
my thoughts ; while gambling gave a new turn 
to the fever which would otherwise have preyed 
upon my heart, and fixed it upon a passion which 
laid hold on me in spite of myself, until the 
hour struck when I might go to my mistress. 
Then, and by this I knew the violence of my 
love. I left the table without a moment's hesita- 
tion, whether I was winning or losing, pitying 
those whom I left behind because they would 
not, like me, find their real happiness in leaving 


The Lady of the Camellias 

it. For the most of them, gambhng was a ne- 
cessity ; for me, it was a remedy. Free of Mar- 
guerite, I should have been free of gambhng. 

Thus, in the midst of all that, I preserved a 
considerable amount of self-possession ; I lost 
only what I was able to pay, and gained only 
what I should have been able to lose. 

For the rest, chance was on my side. I made 
no debts, and I spent three times as much money 
as when I did not gamble. It was impossible to 
resist an existence which gave me an easy means 
of satisfying the thousand caprices of Marguerite. 
As for her, she continued to love me as much, 
or even more than ever. 

As I told you, I began by being allowed to 
stay only from midnight to six o'clock, then I 
was asked sometimes to a box in the theatre, then 
she sometimes came to dine with me. One morn- 
ing I did not go till eight, and there came a day 
when I did not go till twelve. 

But, sooner than the moral metamorphosis, 
a physical metamorphosis came about in Mar- 
guerite. I had taken her cure in hand, and the 
poor girl, seeing my aim, obeyed me in order 
to prove her gratitude. I had succeeded without 
effort or trouble in almost isolating her from her 
former habits. My doctor, whom I had made 


The Lady of the Camellias 

her meet, had told me that only rest and calm 
could preserve her health, so that in place of 
supper and sleepless nights, I succeeded in sub- 
stituting a hygienic regime and regular sleep. In 
spite of herself, Marguerite got accustomed to 
this new existence, whose salutary effects she al- 
ready realized. She began to spend some of her 
evenings at home, or, if the weather was fine, she 
wrapped herself in a shawl, put on a veil, and we 
went on foot, like two children, in the dim alleys 
of the Champs-Elys^es. She would come in tired, 
take a light supper, and go to bed after a little 
music or reading, which she had never been used 
to do. The cough, which every time that I heard 
it seemed to go through my chest, had almost 
completely disappeared. 

At the end of six weeks the count was en- 
tirely given up, and only the duke obliged me to 
conceal my liaison with Marguerite, and even he 
was sent away when I was there, under the pre- 
text that she was asleep and had given orders that 
she was not to be awakened. 

The habit or the need of seeing me which Mar- 
guerite had now contracted had this good result : 
that it forced me to leave the gaming-table just at 
the moment when an adroit gambler would have 
left it. Settling one thing against another, I 
Vol. 13—8 19^ 

The Lady of the Camellias 

found myself in possession of some ten thou- 
sand francs, which seemed to me an inexhaust- 
ible capital. 

The time of the year when I was accustomed 
to join my father and sister had now arrived, and 
I did not go ; both of them wrote to me fre- 
quently, begging me to come. To these letters 
I replied as best I could, always repeating that 
I was quite well and that I was not in need of 
money, two things which, I thought, would con- 
sole my father for my delay in paying him my 
annual visit. 

Just then, one fine day in summer. Marguerite 
was awakened by the sunlight pouring into her 
room, and, jumping out of bed, asked me if I 
would take her into the country for the whole 

We sent for Prudence, and all three set off, 
after Marguerite had given Nanine orders to tell 
the duke that she had taken advantage of the fine 
day to go into the country with Mme. Duvernoy. 

Besides the presence of Mme. Duvernoy being 
needful on account of the old duke. Prudence was 
one of those women who seem made on purpose 
for days in the country. With her unchanging 
good-humour and her eternal appetite, she never 
left a dull moment to those whom she was with, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and was perfectly happy in ordering eggs, cherries, 
milk, stewed rabbit, and all the rest of the tradi- 
tional lunch in the country. 

We had now only to decide where we should 
go. It was once more Prudence who settled the 

" Do you want to go to the real country ?" she 

" Yes." 

"Well, let us go to Bougival, at the Point du 
Jour, at Widow Arnould's. Armand, order an 
open carriage." 

An hour and a half later we were at Widow 

Perhaps you know the inn, which is a hotel 
on week days and a tea garden on Sundays. 
There is a magnificent view from the garden, 
which is at the height of an ordinary first floor. 
On the left the Aqueduct of Marly closes in the 
horizon, on the right one looks across hill after 
hill ; the river, almost without current at that 
spot, unrolls itself like a large white watered rib- 
bon between the plain of the Gabillons and the 
island of Croissy, lulled eternally by the trem- 
bling of its high poplars and the murmur of its 
willows. Beyond, distinct in the sunlight, rise 
little white houses, with red roofs, and manufac- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

tories, which, at that distance, put an admirable 
finish to the landscape. Beyond that, Paris in 
the mist! As Prudence had told us, it was the 
real country, and, I must add, it was a real lunch. 

It is not only out of gratitude for the happi- 
ness I owe it, but Bougival, in spite of its horrible 
name, is one of the prettiest places that it is possi- 
ble to imagine. I have travelled a good deal, and 
seen much grander things, but none more charm- 
ing than this little village gaily seated at the foot 
of the hill which protects it. 

Mme. Arnould asked us if we would take a 
boat, and Marguerite and Prudence accepted joy- 

People have always associated the country with 
love, and they have done well ; nothing affords so 
fine a frame for the woman whom one loves as 
the blue sky, the odours, the flowers, the breeze, 
the shining solitude of fields, or woods. How- 
ever much one loves a woman, whatever confi- 
dence one may have in her, whatever certainty 
her past may offer us as to her future, one is 
always more or less jealous. If you have been 
in love, you must have felt the need of isolating 
from this world the being in whom you would 
live wholly. It seems as if, however indifferent 
she may be to her surroundings, the woman whom 



The Lady of the Camellias 

one loves loses something of her perfume and of 
her unity at the contact of men and things. As 
for me, I experienced that more than most. 
Mine was not an ordinary love ; I was as much 
in love as an ordinary creature could be, but with 
Marguerite Gautier ; that is to say, that at Paris, 
at every step, I might elbow the man who had al- 
ready been her lover or who was about to, while 
in the country, surrounded by people whom we 
had never seen and who had no concern* with us, 
alone with nature in the spring-time of the year, 
that annual pardon, and shut off from the noise 
of the city, I could hide my love, and love with- 
out shame or fear. 

The courtesan disappeared little by little. I 
had by me a young and beautiful woman, whom I 
loved, and who loved me, and who was called 
Marguerite ; the past had no more reality and the 
future no more clouds. The sun shone upon my 
mistress as it might have shone upon the purest 
bride. We walked together in those charming 
spots which seemed to have been made on pur- 
pose to recall the verses of Lamartine or to sing 
the melodies of Scudo. Marguerite was dressed 
in white, she leaned on my arm, saying over to 
me again under the starry sky the words she had 
said to me the day before, and far off the world 


The Lady of the Camellias 

went on its way, without darkening with its 
shadow the radiant picture of our youth and 

That was the dream that the hot sun brought 
to me that day through the leaves of the trees, 
as, lying on the grass of the island on which 
we had landed, I let my thought wander, free 
from the human links that had bound it, gather- 
ing to itself every hope that came in its way. 

Add to this that from the place where I was I 
could see on the shore a charming little house of 
two stories, with a semicircular railing ; through 
the railing, in front of the house, a green lawn, 
smooth as velvet, and behind the house a little 
wood full of mysterious retreats, where the moss 
must efface each morning the pathway that had 
been made the day before. Climbing flowers 
clung about the doorway of this uninhabited 
house, mounting as high as the first story. 

I looked at the house so long that I began by 
thinking of it as mine, so perfectly did it embody 
the dream that I was dreaming ; I saw Marguerite 
and myself there, by day in the little wood that 
covered the hillside, in the evening seated on the 
grass, and I asked myself if earthly creatures had 
ever been so happy as we should be. 

" What a pretty house ! " Marguerite said to 

The Lady of the Camellias 

me, as she followed the direction of my gaze and 
perhaps of my thought. 

" Where ? " asked Prudence. 

" Yonder," and Marguerite pointed to the 
house in question. 

" Ah, delicious ! " replied Prudence. " Do 
you like it ? " 

"Very much." 

" Well, tell the duke to take it for you ; he 
would do so, I am sure. I'll see about it if you 

Marguerite looked at me, as if to ask me 
what I thought. My dream vanished at the 
last words of Prudence, and brought me back to 
reality so brutally that I was still stunned with 
the fall. 

" Yes, yes, an excellent idea," I stammered, 
not knowing what I was saying. 

** Well, I will arrange that," said Marguerite, 
freeing my hand, and interpreting my words ac- 
cording to her own desire. " Let us go and see 
if it is to let." 

The house was empty, and to let for two 
thousand francs. 

"Would you be happy here?" she said 
to me. 

"Am I sure of coming here ?" 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" And for whom else should I bury myself 
here, if not for you ? " 

" Well, then, Marguerite, let me take it my- 

" You are mad ; not only is it unnecessary, but 
it would be dangerous. You know perfectly well 
that I have no right to accept it save from one 
man. Let me alone, big baby, and say nothing." 

" That means," said Prudence, " that when I 
have two days free I will come and spend them 
with you." 

We left the house, and started on our return 
to Paris, talking over the new plan. I held 
Marguerite in my arms, and as I got down from 
the carriage, I had already begun to look upon 
her arrangement with less critical eyes. 



Next day Marguerite sent me away very 
early, saying that the duke was coming at an 
early hour, and promising to write to me the 
moment he \vent, and to make an appointment 
for the evening. In the course of the day I re- 
ceived this note : 

" I am going to Bougival with the duke ; be 
at Prudence's to-night at eight." 

At the appointed hour Marguerite came to 
me at Mme. Duvernoy's. 

" Well, it is all settled," she said, as she entered. 

"The house is taken ?" asked Prudence. 

" Yes ; he agreed at once." 

I did not know the duke, but I felt ashamed 
of deceiving him. 

" But that is not all," continued Marguerite. 

"What else is there?" 

" I have been seeing about a place for Armand 
to stay." 

" In the same house ?" asked Prudence, laughing. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" No, at Point du Jour, where we had dinner, 
the duke and I. While he was admiring the 
view, I asked Mme. Arnould (she is called Mme. 
Arnould, isn't she ?) if there were any suitable 
rooms, and she showed me just the very thing: 
salo7i, anteroom, and bed-room, at sixty francs a 
month ; the whole place furnished in a way to 
divert a hypochondriac. I took it. Was I right ?" 

I flung my arms around her neck and kissed 

" It will be charming," she continued. "You 
have the key of the little door, and I have prom- 
ised the duke the key of the front door, which 
he will not take, because he will come during 
the day when he comes. I think, between our- 
selves, that he is enchanted with a caprice which 
will keep me out of Paris for a time, and so 
silence the objections of his family. However, 
he has asked me how I, loving Paris as I do, 
could make up my mind to bury myself in the 
country. I told him that I was ill, and that I 
wanted rest. He seemed to have some difficulty 
in believing me. The poor old man is always 
on the watch. We must take every precaution, 
mv dear Armand, for he will have me w^atched 
while I am there ; and it isn't only the question 
of his taking a house for me, but he has my debts 


The Lady of the Camellias 

to pay, and unluckily I have plenty. Does all 
that suit you ?" 

" Yes," I answered, trying to quiet the scruples 
which this way of living awoke in me from time 
to time. 

" We went all over the house, and we shall 
have everything perfect. The duke is going to 
look after every single thing. Ah, my dear," she 
added, kissing me, "you're in luck; it's a mil- 
lionaire who makes your bed for you." 

" And when shall you move into the house ? " 
inquired Prudence. 

" As soon as possible." 

" Will you take your horses and carriage?" 

" I shall take the whole house, and you can 
look after my place while I am away." 

A week later Marguerite was settled in her 
country house, and I was installed at Point du 

Then began an existence which I shall have 
some difficulty in describing to you. At first 
Marguerite could not break entirely with her 
former habits, and, as the house was always en 
fite, all the women whom she knew came to see 
her. For a whole month there was not a day 
when Marguerite had not eight or ten people to 
meals. Prudence, on her side, brought down all 

20 1 

The Lady of the Camellias 

the people she knew, and did the honours of the 
house as if the house belonged to her. 

The duke's money paid for all that, as you 
may imagine ; but from time to time Prudence 
came to me, asking for a note for a thousand 
francs, professedly on behalf of Marguerite. You 
know I had won some money at gambling ; I 
therefore immediately handed over to Prudence 
what she asked for Marguerite, and fearing lest 
she should require more than I possessed, I bor- 
rowed at Paris a sum equal to that which I had 
already borrowed and paid back. I was then 
once more in possession of some ten thousand 
francs, without reckoning my allowance. How- 
ever, Marguerite's pleasure in seeing her friends 
was a little moderated when she saw the expense 
which that pleasure entailed, and especially the 
necessity she was sometimes in of asking me for 
money. The duke, who had taken the house in 
order that Marguerite might rest there, no longer 
visited it, fearing to find himself in the midst of 
a large and merry company, by whom he did not 
wish to be seen. This came about through his 
having once arrived to dine tite-a-tHe with Mar- 
guerite, and having fallen upon a party of fifteen, 
who were still at lunch at an hour when he was 
prepared to sit down to dinner. He had unsus- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

pectingly opened the dining-room door, and had 
been greeted by a burst of laughter, and had had 
to retire precipitately before the impertinent mirth 
of the women who were assembled there. 

Marguerite rose from table, and joined the 
duke in the next room, where she tried, as far as 
possible, to induce him to forget the incident, 
but the old man, wounded in his dignity, bore 
her a grudge for it, and could not forgive her. 
He said to her, somewhat cruelly, that he was 
tired of paying for the follies of a woman who 
could not even have him treated with respect un- 
der his own roof, and he went away in great indig- 

Since that day he had never been heard of. 

In vain Marguerite dismissed her guests, 
changed her way of life ; the duke was not to be 
heard of. I was the gainer in so far that my mis- 
tress now belonged to me more completely, and my 
dream was at length realized. Marguerite could 
not be without me. Not caring what the result 
might be, she publicly proclaimed our liaison, and 
I had come to live entirely at her house. The 
servants addressed me officially as their master. 

Prudence had strictly sermonized Marguerite 
in regard to her new manner of life ; but she had 
replied that she loved me, that she could not live 
i6 203 

The Lady of the Camellias 

without me, and that, happen what might, she 
would not sacrifice the pleasure of having me con- 
stantly with her, adding that those who were not 
satisfied with this arrangement were free to stay 
away. So much I had heard one day when Pru- 
dence had said to Marguerite that she had some- 
thing very important to tell her, and I had lis- 
tened at the door of the room into which they had 
shut themselves. 

Not long after, Prudence returned again. I 
was at the other end of the garden when she ar- 
rived, and she did not see me. I had no doubt, 
from the way in which Marguerite came to 
meet her, that another similar conversation was 
going to take place, and I was anxious to hear 
what it was about. The two women shut them- 
selves into a boudoir, and I put myself within 

" Well ? " said Marguerite. 

" Well, I have seen the duke." 

*' What did he say ? " 

" That he would gladly forgive you in regard 
to the scene which took place, but that he has 
learned that you are publicly living with M. Ar- 
mand Duval, and that he will never forgive that. 
' Let Marguerite leave the young man,' he said to 
me, 'and, as in the past, I will give her all that 


The Lady of the Camellias 

she requires ; if not, let her ask nothing more 
from me.' " 

" And you replied ? " 

" That I would report his decision to you, and 
I promised him that I would bring you into a 
more reasonable frame of mind. Only think, my 
dear child, of the position that you are losing, and 
that Armand can never give you. He loves you 
with all his soul, but he has no fortune capable of 
supplying your needs, and he will be bound to 
leave you one day, when it will be too late and 
when the duke will refuse to do any more for you. 
Would you like me to speak to Armand ? " 

Marguerite seemed to be thinking, for she an- 
swered nothing. My heart beat violently while I 
waited for her reply. 

" No," she answered, " I will not leave Ar- 
mand, and I will not conceal the fact that I am 
living with him. It is folly no doubt, but I love 
him. What would you have me do ? And then, 
now that he has got accustomed to be always with 
me, he would suffer too cruelly if he had to leave 
me so much as an hour a day. Besides, I have 
not such a long time to live that I need make my- 
self miserable in order to please an old man whose 
very sight makes me feel old. Let him keep his 
money ; I will do without it." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" But what will you do ? " 

" I don't in the least know." 

Prudence was no doubt going to make some 
reply, but I entered suddenly and flung myself at 
Marguerite's feet, covering her hands with tears in 
my joy at being thus loved. 

" My life is yours, Marguerite ; you need this 
man no longer. Am I not here ? Shall I ever 
leave you, and can I ever repay you for the hap- 
piness that you give me ? No more barriers, my 
Marguerite ; w^e love ; what matters all the rest?" 

" Oh, yes, I love you, my Armand," she mur- 
mured, putting her two arms around my neck. 
" I love you as I never thought I should ever love. 
We will be happy ; we will live quietly, and I will 
say good-bye forever to the life for which I now 
blush. You won't ever reproach me for the past ? 
Tell me !" 

Tears choked my voice. I could only reply 
by clasping Marguerite to my heart. 

" Well," said she, turning to Prudence, and 
speaking in a broken voice, "you can report this 
scene to the duke, and you can add that we have 
no lonofer need of him." 

From that day forth the duke was never re- 
ferred to. Marguerite was no longer the same 
woman that I had known. She avoided ev^ry- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

thing that might recall to me the life which she 
had been leading when I first met her. Never did 
wife or sister surround husband or brother with 
such loving care as she had for me. Her nature 
was morbidly open to all impressions and accessi- 
ble to all sentiments. She had broken equally 
with her friends and with her ways, with her 
words and with her extravagances. Any one who 
had seen us leaving the house to go on the river 
in the charming little boat which I had bought 
would never have believed that the woman dressed 
in white, wearing a straw hat, and carrying on her 
arm a little silk pelisse to protect her against the 
damp of the river, was that Marguerite Gautier 
who, only four months ago, had been the talk of 
the town for the luxury and scandal of her exist- 

Alas, we made haste to be happy, as if we 
knew that we were not to be happy long. 

For two months we had not even been to 
Paris. No one came to see us, except Prudence 
and Julie Duprat, of whom I have spoken to you, 
and to whom Marguerite was afterward to give 
the touching narrative that I have there. 

I passed whole days at the feet of my mistress. 
We opened the windows upon the garden, and, as 
we watched the summer ripening in its flowers 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and under the shadow of the trees, we breathed 
together that true life which neither Marguerite 
nor I had ever known before. 

Her delight in the smallest things was like 
that of a child. There w^ere days when she ran 
in the garden, like a child of ten, after a butterfly 
or a dragon-fly. This courtesan who had cost 
more money in bouquets than would have kept 
a whole family in comfort, would sometimes sit 
on the grass for an hour, examining the simple 
flower whose name she bore. 

It was at this time that she read Manon Les- 
caut, over and over again. I found her several 
times making notes in the book, and she always 
declared that when a woman loves, she can not 
do as Manon did. 

The duke wrote to her two or three times. 
She recognised the writing and gave me the let- 
ters without reading them. Sometimes the terms 
of these letters brought tears to my eyes. He 
had imagined that by closing his purse to Mar- 
guerite, he would bring her back to him ; but 
when he had perceived the uselessness of these 
means, he could hold out no longer ; he wrote 
and asked that he might see her again, as before, 
no matter on what conditions. 

I read these urgent and repeated letters, and 

The Lady of the Camellias 

tore them in pieces, without telling Marguerite 
what they contained and without advising her to 
see the old man again, though I was half inclined 
to, so much did I pity him, but I was afraid lest, if 
I so advised her she should think that I wished 
the duke, not merely to come and see her again, 
but to take over the expenses of the house ; I 
feared, above all, that she might think me capable 
of shirking the responsibilities of every conse- 
quence to which her love for me might lead her. 

It thus came about that the duke, receiving 
no reply, ceased to write, and that Marguerite and 
I continued to live together without giving a 
thought to the future. 



It would be difficult to give you all the details 
of our new life. It was made up of a series of 
little childish events, charming for us but insig- 
nificant to any one else. You know what it is 
to be in love with a woman, you know how it 
cuts short the days, and with what loving listless- 
ness one drifts into the morrow. You know that 
forgetfulness of ev^erything which comes of a vio- 
lent, confident, reciprocated love. Every being 
who is not the beloved one seems a useless being 
in creation. One regrets having cast scraps of 
one's heart to other w^omen, and one can not 
believe in the possibility of ever pressing another 
hand than that which one holds between one's 
hands. The mind admits neither work nor re- 
membrance ; nothing, in short, which can distract 
it from the one thought in which it is cease- 
lessly absorbed. Every day one discovers in one's 
mistress a new charm and unknown delights. 
Existence itself is but the unceasing accom- 
plishment of an unchanging desire ; the soul is 


The Lady of the Camellias 

but the vestal charged to feed the sacred fire of 

We often went at night-time to sit in the little 
wood above the house ; there we listened to the 
cheerful harmonies of evening, both of us think- 
ing of the coming hours which should leave us 
to one another till the dawn of day. At other 
times we did not get up all day ; we did not even 
let the sunlight enter our room. 

The curtains were hermetically closed, and for 
a moment the external world did not exist for us. 
Nanine alone had the right to open our door, but 
only to bring in our meals and even these we took 
without getting up, interrupting them with laugh- 
ter and gaiety. To that succeeded a brief sleep, 
for, disappearing into the depths of our love, we 
were like two divers who only come to the sur- 
face to take breath. 

Nevertheless, I surprised moments of sadness, 
even tears, in Marguerite ; I asked her the cause 
of her trouble, and she answered : 

" Our love is not like other loves, my Armand. 
You love me as if I had never belonged to an- 
other, and I tremble lest later on, repenting of 
your love, and accusing me of my past, you 
should let me fall back into that life from which 
you have taken me. I think that now that I 


The Lady of the Camellias 

have tasted of another life, I should die if I went 
back to the old one. Tell me that you will never 
leave me ! " 

" I swear it ! " 

At these words she looked at me as if to read 
in my eyes w^hether my oath was sincere ; then 
flung herself into my arms, and, hiding her head 
in my bosom, said to me : " You don't know how 
much I love vou ! " 

One evening, seated on the balcony outside 
the window, we looked at the moon which seemed 
to rise with difficulty out of its bed of clouds, and 
we listened to the wind violently rustling the 
trees ; w^e held each other's hands, and for a whole 
quarter of an hour we had not spoken, when Mar- 
guerite said to me: 

" Winter is at hand. Would you like for us 
to go abroad ? " 


"To Italy." 

" You are tired of here ? " 

" I am afraid of the winter ; I am particularly 
afraid of your return to Paris." 


" For many reasons." 

And she went on abruptly, without giving me 
her reasons for fears : 


The Lady of the Camellias 

"Will you go abroad? I will sell all that I 
have ; we will go and live there, and there will be 
nothing left of what I was ; no one will know who 
lam. Will you?" 

" By all means, if you like, Marguerite, let us 
travel," I said. *' But where is the necessity of 
selling things which you will be glad of when we 
return ? I have not a large enough fortune to ac- 
cept such a sacrifice ; but I have enough for us 
to be able to travel splendidly for five or six 
months, if that will amuse you the least in the 

" After all, no," she said, leaving the window 
and going to sit down on the sofa at the other end 
of the room. "Why should we spend money 
abroad ? I cost you enough already, here." 

" You reproach me, Marguerite ; it isn't gen- 

" Forgive me, my friend," she said, giving me 
her hand. "This thunder weather gets on my 
nerves ; I do not say what I intend to say." 

And after embracing me she fell into a long 

Scenes of this kind often took place, and 
though I could not discover their cause, I could 
not fail to see in Marguerite signs of disquietude 
in regard to the future. She could not doubt my 


The Lady of the Camellias 

love, which increased day by day, and yet I often 
found her sad, without being able to get any ex^ 
planation of the reason, except some physical 

Fearing that so monotonous a life was begin- 
ning to wear)^ her, I proposed returning to Paris ; 
but she always refused, assuring me that she could 
not be so happy anywhere as in the country. 

Prudence now came but rarely ; but she often 
wrote letters which I never asked to see, though, 
every time that they came, they seemed to pre- 
occupy Marguerite deeply. I did not know what 
to think. 

One day Marguerite was in her room. I en- 
tered. She was writing. 

" To whom are you writing ? " I asked. 

" To Prudence. Do you want to see what I 
am writing ? " 

I had a horror of anything that might look 
like suspicion, and I answered that I had no desire 
to know what she was writing ; and yet I was cer- 
tain that letter would have explained to me the 
cause of her sadness. 

Next day the weather was splendid. Margue- 
rite proposed to me to take the boat and go as far 
as the island of Croissy. She seemed very cheer- 
ful ; when we got back it was five o'clock. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Mme. Duvernoy has been here," said Nanine, 
as she saw us enter. 

" She has gone again ?" asked Marguerite. 

" Yes, madame, in the carriage ; she said it 
was arranged." 

" Quite right," said Marguerite sharply. " Serve 
the dinner." 

Two days afterward there came a letter from 
Prudence, and for a fortnight Marguerite seemed 
to have got rid of her mysterious gloom, for which 
she constantly asked my forgiveness, now that it 
no longer existed. 

Still, the carriage did not return. 

" How is it that Prudence does not send you 
back your carriage ? " I asked one day. 

" One of the horses is ill, and there are some 
repairs to be done. It is better to have that done 
while we are here, and don't need a carriage, than 
to wait till we get back to Paris." 

Prudence came two days afterward, and con- 
firmed what Marguerite had said. The two women 
went for a walk in the garden, and when I joined 
them they changed the conversation. That night, 
as she was going, Prudence complained of the 
cold and asked Marguerite to lend her a shawl. 

So a month passed, and all the time Margue- 
rite was more joyous and more affectionate than 


The Lady of the Camellias 

she ever had been. Nevertheless, the carriage did 
not return, the shawl had not been sent back, and 
I began to be anxious in spite of myself, and as I 
knew in which drawer Marguerite put Prudence's 
letters, I took advantage of a moment when she 
was at the other end of the garden, went to the 
drawer, and tried to open it ; in vain, for it was 
locked. When I opened the drawer in which the 
trinkets and diamonds were usually kept, these 
opened without resistance, but the jewel cases had 
disappeared, along with their contents no doubt. 

A sharp fear penetrated my heart. I might 
indeed ask Marguerite for the truth in regard to 
these disappearances, but it was certain that she 
would not confess it. 

" My good Marguerite," I said to her, " I am 
going to ask your permission to go to Paris. 
They do not know my address, and I expect 
there are letters from my father waiting for me. 
I have no doubt he is concerned ; I ought to an- 
swer him." 

"Go, my friend," she said; "but be back 

I went straight to Prudence. 

"Come," said I, without beating about the 
bush, " tell me frankly, where are Marguerite's 
horses ? " 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Sold." 

"The shawl?" 

" Sold." 

"The diamonds?" 

" Pawned." 

" And who has sold and pawned them ?" 

<( T " 

" Why did you not tell me ? " 

" Because Marguerite made me promise not 


"And why did you not ask me for money?" 

" Because she wouldn't let me." 

" And where has this money gone ?" 

" In payments." 

" Is she much in debt ?" 

" Thirty thousand francs, or thereabouts. Ah, 
my dear fellow, didn't I tell you ? You wouldn't 
believe me ; now you are convinced. The uphol- 
sterer whom the duke had agreed to settle with 
was shown out of the house when he presented 
himself, and the duke wrote next day to say that 
he would answer for nothing in regard to Mile. 
Gautier. This man wanted his money ; he was 
given part payment out of the few thousand francs 
that I got from you ; then some kind souls warned 
him that his debtor had been abandoned by the 
duke and was living with a penniless young man ; 


The Lady of the Camellias 

the other creditors were told the same ; they asked 
for their money, and seized some of the goods. 
Marguerite wanted to sell everything, but it was 
too late, and besides I should have opposed it. 
But it was necessary to pay, and in order not to 
ask you for money, she sold her horses and her 
shawls, and pawned her jewels. Would you like 
to see the receipts and the pawn tickets ? " 

And Prudence opened the drawer and showed 
me the papers. 

" Ah, you think," she continued, with the in- 
sistence of a woman who can say, I was right 
after all, " ah, you think it is enough to be in 
love, and to go into the country and lead a 
dreamy, pastoral life. No, my friend, no. By 
the side of that ideal life, there is a material life, 
and the purest resolutions are held to earth by 
threads which seem slight enough, but which are 
of iron, not easily to be broken. If Marguerite 
has not been unfaithful to you twenty times, it is 
because she has an exceptional nature. It is not 
my fault for not advising her to, for I couldn't 
bear to see the poor girl stripping herself of every- 
thing. She wouldn't ; she replied that she loved 
you, and she wouldn't be unfaithful to you for 
anything in the world. All that is very pretty, 
very poetical, but one can't pay one's creditors in 


The Lady of the Camellias 

that coin, and now she can't free herself from 
debt, unless she can raise thirty thousand francs." 

"All right, I will provide that amount." 

" You will borrow it ? " 

" Good heavens ! Why, yes ! " 

" A fine thing that will be to do ; you will fall 
out with your father, cripple your resources, and 
one doesn't find thirty thousand francs from one 
day to another. Believe me, my dear Armand, I 
know women better than you do ; do not commit 
this folly ; you will be sorry for it one day. Be 
reasonable. I don't advise you to leave Margue- 
rite, but live with her as you did at the beginning. 
Let her find the means to get out of this difficulty. 
The duke will come back in a little while. The 
Comte de N., if she would take him, he told me 
yesterday even, would pay all her debts, and give 
her four or five thousand francs a month. He has 
two hundred thousand a year. It would be a posi- 
tion for her, while you will certainly be obliged to 
leave her. Don't wait till you are ruined, espe- 
cially as the Comte de N. is a fool, and noth- 
ing would prevent your still being Marguerite's 
lover. She would cry a little at the beginning, 
but she would come to accustom herself to it, and 
you would thank me one day for what you had 
done. Imagine that Marguerite is married, and 
X7 219 

The Lady of the Camellias 

deceive the husband ; that is all. I have already 
told you all this once, only at that time it was 
merely advice, and now it is almost a necessity." 

What Prudence said was cruelly true. 

"This is how it is," she went on, putting away 
the papers she had just shown me; "women like 
Marguerite always foresee that some one will love 
them, never that they will love ; otherwise they 
would put aside money, and at thirty they could 
afford the luxury of having a lover for nothing. 
If I had only known once what I know now ! In 
short, say nothing to Marguerite, and bring her 
back to Paris. You have lived with her alone for 
four or five months ; that is quite enough. Shut 
your eyes now ; that is all that any one asks of 
you. At the end of a fortnight she will take the 
Comte de N., and she will save up during the win- 
ter, and next summer you will begin over again. 
That is how things are done, my dear fellow ! " 

And Prudence appeared to be enchanted with 
her advice, which I refused indignantly. 

Not only my love and my dignity would not 
let me act thus, but I was certain that, feeling as 
she did now. Marguerite would die rather than ac- 
cept another lover. 

" Enough joking," I said to Prudence ; " tell 
me exactly how much Marguerite is in need of." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" I have told you : thirty thousand francs." 

" And when does she require this sum ? " 

** Before the end of two months." 

" She shall have it." 

Prudence shrugged her shoulders. 

" I will give it to you," I continued, " but you 
must swear to me that you will not tell Margue- 
rite that I have given it to you." 

" Don't be afraid." 

" And if she sends you anything else to sell or 
pawn, let me know." 

"There is no danger. She has nothing left." 

I went straight to my own house to see if 
there were any letters from my father. There 
were four. 



In his first three letters my father inquired 
the cause of my silence ; in the last he allowed me 
to see that he had heard of my change of hfe, and 
informed me that he was about to come and see me. 

I have always had a great respect and a sincere 
affection for my father. I replied that I had been 
travelling for a short time, and begged him to let 
me know beforehand what day he would arrive, so 
that I could be there to meet him. 

I gave my servant my address in the country, 
telling him to bring me the first letter that came 
with the post-mark of C, then I returned to Bou- 

Marguerite was waiting for me at the garden 
gate. She looked at me anxiously. Throwing 
her arms round my neck, she said to me : " Have 
you seen Prudence ? " 

" No." 

" You were a long time in Paris." 

" I found letters from my father to which I 
had to reply." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

A few minutes afterward Nanine entered, all 
out of breath. Marguerite rose and talked with 
her in whispers. When Nanine had gone out 
Marguerite sat down by me again and said, taking 
my hand : 

" Why did you deceive me ? You went to see 

"Who told you?" 


"And how did she know?" 

" She followed you." 

" You told her to follow me ? " 

" Yes. I thought that you must have had a 
very strong motive for going to Paris, after not 
leaving me for four months. I was afraid that 
something might happen to you, or that you were 
perhaps going to see another woman." 


" Now I am relieved. I know what you have 
done, but I don't yet know what you have been 

I showed Marguerite my father's letters. 

" That is not what I am asking you about. 
What I want to know is why you went to see 

" To see her." 

"That's a lie, my friend." 

Vol. 13— B ^^^ 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Well, I went to ask her if the horse was any 
better, and if she wanted your shawl and your 
jewels any longer." 

Marguerite blushed, but did not answer. 

" And," I continued, " I learned what you had 
done with your horses, shawls, and jewels." 

" And you are vexed ? " 

" I am vexed that it never occurred to you to 
ask me for what you were in want of." 

" In a liaiso7i like ours, if the woman has any 
sense of dignity at all, she ought to make every 
possible sacrifice rather than ask her lover for 
money and so give a venal character to her love. 
You love me, I am sure, but you do not know on 
how slight a thread depends the love one has for a 
woman like me. Who knows? Perhaps some 
day when you were bored or worried you would 
fancy you saw a carefully concerted plan in our 
liaison. Prudence is a chatterbox. What need 
had I of the horses ? It was an economy to sell 
them. I don't use them and I don't spend any- 
thing on their keep ; if you love me, I ask noth- 
ing more, and you will love me just as much with- 
out horses, or shawls, or diamonds." 

All that was said so naturally that the tears 
came to my eyes as I listened. 

" But, my good Marguerite," I replied, press- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

ing her hands lovingly, ** you knew that one day I 
should discover the sacrifice you had made, and 
that the moment I discovered it I should allow it 
no longer." 

" But why ? " 

** Because, my dear child, I can not allow your 
affection for me to deprive you of even a trinket. 
I too should not like you to be able, in a moment 
when you were bored or worried, to think that if 
you were living with somebody else those mo- 
ments would not exist ; and to repent, if only for 
a minute, of living with me. In a few days your 
horses, your diamonds, and your shawls shall be 
returned to you. They are as necessary to you as 
air is to life, and it may be absurd, but I like you 
better showy than simple." 

" Then you no longer love me." 

" Foolish creature ! " 

" If you loved me, you would let me love you 
my own way ; on the contrary, you persist in only 
seeing in me a woman to whom luxury is indis- 
pensable, and whom you think you are always 
obliged to pay. You are ashamed to accept the 
proof of my love. In spite of yourself, you think 
of leaving me some day, and you want to put 
your disinterestedness beyond risk of suspicion. 
You are right, my friend, but I had better hopes." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

And Marguerite made a motion to rise ; I held 
her, and said to her : 

" I want you to be happy and to have nothing 
to reproach me for, that is all." 

" And we are going to be separated ! " 

"Why, Marguerite, who can separate us?" I 

" You, who will not let me take you on youi 
own level, but insist on taking me on mine ; you, 
who wish me to keep the luxury in the midst of 
which I have lived, and so keep the moral dis^ 
tance which separates us ; you, who do not be- 
lieve that my affection is sufficiently disinterested 
to share with me what you have, though we could 
live happily enough on it together, and would 
rather ruin yourself, because you are still bound 
by a foolish prejudice. Do you really think that I 
could compare a carriage and diamonds with your 
love ? Do you think that my real happiness lies in 
the trifles that mean so much when one has noth- 
ing to love, but which become trifling indeed when 
one has ? You will pay my debts, realize your 
estate, and then keep me ? How long will that 
last ? Two or three months, and then it will be too 
late to live the life I propose, for then you will 
have to take everything from me, and that is what 
a man of honour can not do ; while now you have 


The Lady of the Camellias 

eight or ten thousand francs a year, on which we 
should be able to live. I will sell the rest of what 
I do not want, and with this alone I will make two 
thousand francs a year. We will take a nice little 
flat in which we can both live. In the summer 
we will go into the country, not to a house like 
this, but to a house just big enough for two peo- 
ple. You are independent, I am free, we are 
young; in heaven's name, Armand, do not drive 
me back into the life I had to lead once ! " 

I could not answer. Tears of gratitude and 
love filled my eyes, and I flung myself into Mar- 
guerite's arms. 

" I wanted," she continued, " to arrange every- 
thing without telling you, pay all my debts, and 
take a new flat. In October we should have been 
back in Paris, and all would have come out ; but 
since Prudence has told you all, you will have 
to agree beforehand, instead of agreeing after- 
ward. Do you love me enough for that ? " 

It was impossible to resist such devotion. I 
kissed her hands ardently, and said : 

*' I will do whatever you wish." 

It was agreed that we should do as she had 
planned. Thereupon, she went wild with delight ; 
danced, sang, amused herself with calling up pic- 
tures of her new flat in all its simplicity, and 


The Lady of the Camellias 

began to consult me as to its position and arrange- 
ment. I saw how happy and proud she was of 
this resolution, which seemed as if it would bring 
us into closer and closer relationship, and I re- 
solved to do my own share. In an instant I 
decided the whole course of my life. I put my 
affairs in order, and made over to Marguerite the 
income which had come to me from my mother, 
and which seemed little enough in return for the 
sacrifice which I was accepting. There remained 
the five thousand francs a year from my father ; 
and, whatever happened, I had always enough to 
live on. I did not tell Marguerite what I had 
done, certain as I was that she would refuse the 
gift. This income came from a mortgage of 
sixty thousand francs on a house that I had never 
even seen. All that I knew was that every three 
months my father's solicitor, an old friend of the 
family, handed over to me seven hundred and 
fifty francs in return for my receipt. 

The day when Marguerite and I came to Paris 
to look for a flat, I went to this solicitor and 
asked him what had to be done in order to make 
over this income to another person. The good 
man imagined I was ruined, and questioned me 
as to the cause of my decision. As I knew that 
I should be obliged, sooner or later, to say in 


The Lady of the Camellias 

whose favour I made this transfer, I thought it 
best to tell him the truth at once. He made 
none of the objections that his position as friend 
and solicitor authorized him to make, and assured 
me that he would arrange the whole affair in the 
best way possible. Naturally, I begged him to 
employ the greatest discretion in regard to my 
father, and on leaving him I rejoined Marguerite, 
who was waiting for me at Julie Duprat's, where 
she had gone in preference to going to listen to 
the moralizings of Prudence. 

We began to look out for flats. All those 
that We saw seemed to Marguerite too dear, and 
to me too simple. However, we finally found, 
in one of the quietest parts of Paris, a little 
house, isolated from the main part of the build- 
ing. Behind this little house was a charming 
garden, surrounded by walls high enough to 
screen us from our neighbours, and low enough 
not to shut off our own view. It was better than 
our expectations. 

While I went to give notice at my own flat, 
Marguerite went to see a business agent, who, 
she told me, had already done for one of her 
friends exactly what she wanted him to do for 
her. She came on to the Rue de Provence in a 
state of great delight. The man had promised to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

pay all her debts, to give her a receipt for the 
amount, and to hand over to her twenty thou- 
sand francs, in return for the whole of her fur- 
niture. You have seen by the amount taken at 
the sale that this honest man would have gained 
thirty thousand francs out of his client. 

We went back joyously to Bougival, talking 
over our projects for the future, which, thanks to 
our heedlessness, and especially to our love, we 
saw in the rosiest light. 

A week later, as we were having lunch, Na- 
nine came to tell us that my servant was asking 
for me. " Let him come in," I said. 

"Sir," said he, "your father has arrived in 
Paris, and begs you to return at once to your 
rooms, where he is waiting for you." 

This piece of news was the most natural thing 
in the world, yet, as we heard it, Marguerite and I 
looked at one another. We foresaw trouble Be- 
fore she had spoken a word, I replied to her thought, 
and, taking her hand, I said, " Fear nothing." 

" Come back as soon as possible," whispered 
Marguerite, embracing me ; "I will wait for you 
at the window." 

I sent on Joseph to tell my father that I was 
on my way. Two hours later I was at the Rue 
de Provence. 



My father was seated in my room in his dress- 
ing-gown ; he was writing, and I saw at once, 
by the way in which he raised his eyes to me 
when I came in, that there was going to be a 
serious discussion. I went up to him, all the 
same, as if I had seen nothing in his face, em- 
braced him, and said : 

"When did you come, father?" 

" Last night." 

*' Did you come straight here, as usual ?" 


" I am very sorry not to have been here to 
receive you." 

I expected that the sermon which my father's 
cold face threatened would begin at once ; but he 
said nothing, sealed the letter which he had just 
written, and gave it to Joseph to post. 

When we were alone, my father rose, and 
leaning against the mantel-piece, said to me : 

" My dear Armand, we have serious matters 
to discuss." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" I am listening, father." 

" You promise me to be frank ?" 

"Am I not accustomed to be so?" 

" Is it not true that you are living with a 
woman called Marguerite Gautier ? " 


" Do you know what this woman was ?" 

"A kept woman." 

" And it is for her that you have forgotten to 
come and see your sister and me this year ? " 

" Yes, father, I admit it." 

" You are very much in love with this 
woman ? " 

" You see it, father, since she has made me fail 
in duty toward you, for which I humbly ask your 
forgiveness to-day." 

My father, no doubt, was not expecting such 
categorical answers, for he seemed to reflect a mo- 
ment, and then said to me : 

" You have, of course, realized that you can 
not always live like that ? " 

" I fear so, father, but I have not realized it." 

" But you must realize," continued my father, 
in a dryer tone, " that I, at all events, should not 
permit it." 

" I have said to myself that as long as I did 
nothing contrary to the respect which I owe to the 


The Lady of the Camellias 

traditional probity of the family I could live as I 
am living, and this has reassured me somewhat in 
regard to the fears I have had." 

Passions are formidable enemies to sentiment. 
I was prepared for every struggle, even with my 
father, in order that I might keep Marguerite. 

" Then, the moment is come when you must 
live otherwise." 

"Why, father?" 

" Because you are doing things which outrage 
the respect that you imagine you have for your 

" I don't follow your meaning." 

" I will explain it to you. Have a mistress if 
you will ; pay her as a man of honour is bound to 
pay the woman whom he keeps, by all means ; but 
that you should come to forget the most sacred 
things for her, that you should let the report of 
your scandalous life reach my quiet countryside, 
and set a blot on the honourable name that I have 
given you, it can not, it shall not be." 

" Permit me to tell you, father, that those who 
have given you information about me have been ill- 
informed. I am the lover of Mile. Gautier ; I live 
with her ; it is the most natural thing in the world. 
I do not give Mile. Gautier the name you have 
given me ; I spend on her account what my means 


The Lady of the Camellias 

allow me to spend ; I have no debts ; and, in 
short, I am not in a position which authorizes a 
father to say to his son what you have just said 
to me." 

" A father is always authorized to rescue his 
son out of evil paths. You have not done any 
harm yet, but you will do it." 

" Father ! " 

" Sir, I know more of life than you do. There 
are no entirely pure sentiments except in perfectly 
chaste women. Every Manon can have her own 
Des Grieux, and times are changed. It would be 
useless for the world to grow older if it did not 
correct its ways. You will leave your mistress." 

" I am very sorry to disobey you, father, but it 
is impossible." 

" I will compel you to do so." 

" Unfortunately, father, there no longer exists 
a Sainte-Marguerite to which courtesans can be 
sent, and, even if there were, I would follow 
Mile. Gautier if you succeeded in having her sent 
there. What would you have ? Perhaps I am in 
the wrong, but I can only be happy as long as I 
am the lover of this w^oman." 

" Come, Armand, open your eyes. Recognise 
that it is your father who speaks to you, your 
father who has always loved you, and who only 


The Lady of the Camellias 

desires your happiness. Is it honourable for you 
to live like husband and wife with a woman whom 
everybody has had ? " 

" What does it matter, father, if no one will 
any more ? What does it matter, if this woman 
loves me, if her whole life is changed through the 
love which she has for me and the love which I 
have for her ? What does it matter, if she has 
become a different woman ? " 

" Do you think, then, sir, that the mission of a 
man of honour is to go about converting lost 
women ? Do you think that God has given such 
a grotesque aim to life, and that the heart should 
have any room for enthusiasm of that kind? 
What will be the end of this marvellous cure, and 
what will you think of what you are saying to-day 
by the time you are forty ? You will laugh at 
this love of yours, if you can still laugh, and if it 
has not left too serious a trace in your past. What 
would you be now if your father had had your 
ideas and had given up his life to every impulse 
of this kind, instead of rooting himself firmly in 
convictions of honour and steadfastness? Think 
it over, Armand, and do not talk any more such 
absurdities. Come, leave this woman ; your father 
entreats you." 

I answered nothing. 

»« 235 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Armand," continued my father, "in the name 
of your sainted mother, abandon this life, which 
you will forget more easily than you think. You 
are tied to it by an impossible theory. You are 
twenty-four ; think of the future. You can not 
always love this woman, who also can not always 
love you. You both exaggerate your love. You 
put an end to your whole career. One step fur- 
ther, and you will no longer be able to leave the 
path you have chosen, and you will suffer all your 
life for what you have done in your youth. Leave 
Paris. Come and stay for a month or two with 
your sister and me. Rest in our quiet family 
affection will soon heal you of this fever, for it is 
nothing else. Meanwhile, your mistress will con- 
sole herself ; she w^ll take another lover ; and when 
you see what it is for which you have all but 
broken with your father, and all but lost his love, 
you will tell me that I have done well to come 
and seek you out, and you will thank me for it. 
Come, you will go with me, Armand, will you 

I felt that my father would be right if it had 
been any other woman, but I was convinced that 
he was wrong with regard to Marguerite. Never- 
theless, the tone in which he said these last words 
was so kind, so appealing, that I dared not answer. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Well ? " said he in a trembling voice. 

"Well, father, I can promise nothing," I said 
at last ; " what you ask of me is beyond my 
power. Believe me," I continued, seeing him 
make an impatient movement, "you exaggerate 
the effects of this liaison. Marguerite is a different 
kind of a woman from what you think. This 
love, far from leading me astray, is capable, on 
the contrary, of setting me in the right direction. 
Love always makes a man better, no matter what 
woman inspires it. If you knew Marguerite, you 
would understand that I am in no danger. She is 
as noble as the noblest of women. There is as 
much disinterestedness in her as there is cupidity 
in others." 

" All of which does not prevent her from 
accepting the whole of your fortune, for the sixty 
thousand francs which come to you from your 
mother, and which you are giving her, are, under- 
stand me well, your whole fortune." 

My father had probably kept this peroration 
and this threat for the last stroke. I was firmer 
before these threats than before his entreaties. 

" Who told you that I was handing this sum 
to her ? " I asked. 

" My solicitor. Could an honest man carry 
out such a procedure without warning me ? Well, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

it is to prevent you from ruining yourself for a 
prostitute that I am now in Paris. Your mother, 
when she died, left you enough to live on respect- 
ably, and not to squander on your mistresses." 

" I swear to you, father, that Marguerite knew 
nothing of this transfer." 

"Why, then, do you make it?" 

" Because Marguerite, the woman you calumni- 
ate, and whom you wish me to abandon, is sacri- 
ficing all that she possesses in order to live with 

" And you accept this sacrifice ? What sort of 
a man are you, sir, to allow Mile. Gautier to sacri- 
fice anything for you ? Come, enough of this. 
You will leave this woman. Just now I begged 
you ; now I command you. I will have no such 
scandalous doings in my family. Pack up your 
things and get ready to come with me." 

" Pardon me, father," I said, " but I shall not 

"And why?" 

" Because I am at an age when no one any 
longer obeys a command." 

My father turned pale at my answer. 

" Very well, sir," he said, " I know what re- 
mains to be done." 

He rang and Joseph appeared. 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Have my things taken to the Hdtel de 
Paris," he said to my servant. And thereupon he 
went to his room and finished dressing. When he 
'■eturned, I went up to him. 

"Promise me, father," I said, "that you will 
do nothing to give Marguerite pain ?" 

My father stopped, looked at me disdainfully, 
and contented himself with saying, " I believe you 
are mad." After this he went out, shutting the 
door violently after him. 

I went downstairs, took a cab, and returned 
to Bougival. 

Marguerite was waiting for me at the window. 



" At last you have come," she said, throwing 
her arms round my neck. " But how pale you 
are ! 

I told her of the scene with my father. 

" My God ! I was afraid of it," she said. " When 
Joseph came to tell you of your father's arrival 
I trembled as if he had brought news of some 
misfortune. My poor friend, I am the cause of 
all your distress. You will be better off, perhaps, 
if you leave me and do not quarrel with your 
father on my account. He knows that you are 
sure to have a mistress, and he ought to ,be thank- 
ful that it is I, since I love you and do not want 
more of you than your position allows. Did you 
tell him how we had arranged our future ? " 

" Yes ; that is what annoyed him the most, for 
he saw how much we really love one another." 

" What are we to do, then ?" 

" Hold together, my good Marguerite, and let 
the storm pass over." 

"Will it pass?" 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" It will have to." 

" But your father will not stop there." 

" What do you suppose he can do ? " 

" How do I know ? Everything that a father 
can do to make his son obey him. He will re- 
mind you of my past life, and will perhaps do 
me the honour of inventing some new story, so 
that you may give me up." 

" You know that I love you." 

" Yes, but what I know, too, is that, sooner or 
later, you will have to obey your father, and per- 
haps you will end by believing him." 

"No, Marguerite. It is I who will make him 
believe me. Some of his friends have been tell- 
ing him tales which have made him angry ; but 
he is good and just, he will change his first im- 
pression ; and then, after all, what does it matter 
to me ? " 

" Do not say that, Armand. I would rather 
anything should happen than that you should 
quarrel with your family ; wait till after to-day, 
and to-morrow go back to Paris. Your father, 
too, will have thought it over on his side, and 
perhaps you will both come to a better under- 
standing. Do not go against his principles, pre- 
tend to make some concessions to what he wants ; 
seem not to care so very much about me, and 


The Lady of the Camellias 

he will let things remain as they are. Hope, my 
friend, and be sure of one thing, that whatever 
happens, Marguerite will always be yours." 

" You swear it?" 

*• Do I need to swear it ?" 

How sweet it is to let oneself be persuaded 
by the voice that one loves ! Marguerite and I 
spent the whole day in talking over our projects 
for the future, as if we felt the need of realizing 
them as quickly as possible. At every moment 
we awaited some event, but the day passed with- 
out bringing us any new tidings. 

Next day I left at ten o'clock, and reached 
the hotel about twelve. My father had gone 

I went to my own rooms, hoping that he had 
perhaps gone there. No one had called. I went 
to the solicitor's. No one w^as there. I went back 
to the hotel, and waited till six. M. Duval did 
not return, and I went back to Bougival, 

I found Marguerite not waiting for me, as she 
had been the day before, but sitting by the fire, 
which the weather still made necessary. She was 
so absorbed in her thoughts that I came close to 
her chair without her hearing me. When I put 
my lips to her forehead she started as if the kiss 
had suddenly awakened her. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" You frightened me," she said. " And your 

" I have not seen him. I do not know what 
it means. He was not at his hotel, nor any- 
where where there was a chance of my finding 

"Well, you must try again to-morrow." 

" I am very much inclined to wait till he sends 
for me. I think I have done all that can be ex- 
pected of me." 

" No, my friend, it is not enough ; you must 
call on your father again, and you must call to- 

" Why to-morrow rather than any other day ? " 

" Because," said Marguerite, and it seemed to 
me that she blushed slightly at this question, " be- 
cause it will show that you are the more keen 
about it, and he will forgive us the sooner." 

For the remainder of the day Marguerite was 
sad and preoccupied. I had to repeat twice over 
everything I said to her to obtain an answer. She 
ascribed this preoccupation to her anxiety in re- 
gard to the events which had happened during 
the last two days. I spent the night in reassuring 
her, and she sent me away in the morning with an 
insistent disquietude that I could not explain to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

Again my father was absent, but he had left 
this letter for me : 

" If you call again to-day, wait for me till four. 
If I am not in by four, come and dine with me 
to-morrow. I must see you." 

I waited till the hour he had named, but he 
did not appear. I returned to Bougival. 

The night before I had found Marguerite sad ; 
that night I found her feverish and agitated. On 
seeing me, she flung her arms around my neck, 
but she cried for a long time in my arms. I ques- 
tioned her as to this sudden distress, which alarmed 
me by its violence. She gave me no positive 
reason, but put me off with those evasions which 
a woman resorts to when she will not tell the 

When she was a little calmed down, I told her 
the result of my visit, and I showed her my 
father's letter, from which, I said, we might augur 
well. At the sight of the letter and on hearing 
my comment, her tears began to flow so copiously 
that I feared an attack of nerves, and, calling 
Nanine, I put her to bed, where she wept without 
a word, but held my hands and kissed them every 


The Lady of the Camellias 

I asked Nanine if, during my absence, her mis- 
tress had received any letter or visit which could 
account for the state in which I found her, but 
Nanine replied that no one had called and nothing 
had been sent. 

Something, however, had occurred since the 
day before, something which troubled me the more 
because Marguerite concealed it from me. 

In the evening she seemed a little calmer, and, 
making me sit at the foot of the bed, she told me 
many times how much she loved me. She smiled 
at me, but with an effort, for in spite of herself 
her eyes were veiled with tears. 

I used every means to make her confess the 
real cause of her distress, but she persisted in giv- 
ing me nothing but vague reasons, as I have told 
you. At last she fell asleep in my arms, but it 
was the sleep which tires rather than rests the 
body. From time to time she uttered a cry, 
started up, and, after assuring herself that I was 
beside her, made me swear that I would always 
love her. 

I could make nothing of these intermittent 
paroxysms of distress, which went on till morn- 
ing. Then Marguerite fell into a kind of stupor. 
She had not slept for two nights. 

Her rest was of short duration, for toward 

The Lady of the Camellias 

eleven she awoke, and, seeing that I was up, she 
looked about her, crying : 

" Are you going already ? " 

"No," said I, holding her hands; "but I 
wanted to let you sleep on. It is still early." 

" What time are you going to Paris ?" 

"At four." 

" So soon ? But you will stay with me till 
then ? " 

" Of course. Do I not always ? " 

" I am so glad ! Shall we have lunch ? " she 
went on absent-mindedly. 

" If you like." 

" And then you will be nice to me till the very 
moment you go ?" 

" Yes ; and I will come back as soon as I can." 

"You will come back?" she said, looking at 
me with haggard eyes. 

" Naturally." 

" Oh, yes, you will come back to-night. I shall 
wait for you, as I always do, and you will love me, 
and we shall be happy, as we have been ever since 
we have known each other." 

All these words were said in such a strained 
voice, they seemed to hide so persistent and so 
sorrowful a thought, that I trembled every mo- 
ment lest Marguerite should become delirious. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Listen," I said. " You are ill. I can not leave 
you like this. I will write and tell my father not 
to expect me." 

" No, no," she cried hastily, " don't do that 
Your father will accuse me of hindering you 
again from going to see him when he wants to 
see you ; no, no, you must go, you must ! Be- 
sides. I am not ill. I am quite well. I had a bad 
dream and am not yet fully awake." 

From that moment Marguerite tried to seem 
more cheerful. There were no more tears. 

When the hour came for me to go, I em- 
braced her and asked her if she would come with 
me as far as the train ; I hoped that the walk 
would distract her and that the air would do her 
good. I wanted especially to be with her as long 
as possible. 

She agreed, put on her cloak and took Nanine 
with her, so as not to return alone. Twenty times 
I was on the point of not going. But the hope 
of a speedy return, and the fear of offending my 
father still more, sustained me, and I took my 
place in the train. 

" Till this evening ! " I said to Marguerite, as I 
left her. 

She did not reply. 

Once already she had not replied to the same 

The Lady of the Camellias 

words, and the Comte de G., you will remember, 
had spent the night with her ; but that time was 
so far away that it seemed to have been effaced 
from my memory, and if I had any fear, it was 
certainly not of Marguerite being unfaithful to 
me. Reaching Paris, I hastened off to see Pru- 
dence, intending to ask her to go and keep Mar- 
guerite company, in the hope that her mirth and 
liveliness would distract her. I entered without 
beinff announced, and found Prudence at her 

"Ah!" she said, anxiously; "is Marguerite 
with you ? " 

" No." 

" How is she ?" 

" She is not well." 

" Is she not coming?" 

" Did you expect her?" 

Madame Duvernoy reddened, and replied, with 
a certain constraint : 

" I only meant that since you are at Paris, is 
she not coming to join you ? " 

" No." 

I looked at Prudence ; she cast down her eyes, 
and I read in her face the fear of seeing my visit 

" I even came to ask you, my dear Prudence, 

The Lady of the Camellias 

if you have nothing to do this evening, to go 
and see Marguerite ; you will be company for her, 
and you can stay the night. I never saw her as 
she was to-day, and I am afraid she is going to 
be ill." 

" I am dining in town,'" replied Prudence, 
" and I can't go and see Marguerite this even- 
ing. I will see her to-morrow." 

I took leave of Mme. Duvernoy, who seemed 
almost as preoccupied as Marguerite, and went on 
to my father's ; his first glance seemed to study 
me attentively. He held out his hand. 

" Your two visits have given me pleasure, 
Armand," he said ; " they make me hope that you 
have thought over things on your side as I have 
on mine." 

" May I ask you, father, what was the result 
of your reflection ? " 

"The result, my dear boy, that I have exag- 
gerated the importance of the reports that had 
been made to me, and that I have made up my 
mind to be less severe with you." 

"What are you saying, father?" I cried joy- 

" I say, my dear child, that every young man 
must have his mistress, and that, from the fresh 
information I have had, I would rather see you 


The Lady of the Camellias 

the lover of Mile. Gautier than of any one 

" My dear father, how happy you make 

We talked in this manner for some moments, 
and then sat down to table. My father was 
charming all dinner time. 

I was in a hurry to get back to Bougival to 
tell Marguerite about this fortunate change, and I 
looked at the clock every moment. 

** You are watching the time," said my father, 
"and you are impatient to leave me. O young 
people, how you always sacrifice sincere to doubt- 
ful affections ! " 

" Do not say that, father ; Marguerite loves me, 
I am sure of it." 

My father did not answer ; he seemed to say 
neither yes nor no. 

He was very insistent that I should spend the 
whole evening with him and not go till the morn- 
ing ; but Marguerite had not been well when I 
left her. I told him of it, and begged his permis- 
sion to go back to her early, promising to come 
again on the morrow. 

The weather was fine ; he walked with me as 
far as the station. Never had I been so happy. 
The future appeared as I had long desired to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

see it. I had never loved my father as I loved 
him at that moment. 

Just as I was leaving him, he once more 
begged me to stay. I refused. 

" You are really very much in love with her?" 
he asked. 

" Madly." 

"Go, then," and he passed his hand across 
his forehead as if to chase a thought, then opened 
his mouth as if to say something ; but he only 
pressed my hand, and left me hurriedly, saying : 

"Till to-morrow, then !" 

X9 251 


It seemed to me as if the train did not move. 
I reached Bougival at eleven. 

Not a window in the house was lighted up, 
and when I rang no one answered the bell. It 
was the first time that such a thing had occurred 
to me. At last the gardener came. I entered. 
Nanine met me with a light. I went to Mar- 
guerite's room. 

" Where is madame ? " 

" Gone to Paris," replied Nanine. 

" To Paris ! " 

" Yes, sir." 


"An hour after you." 

" She left no word for me ? " 

" Nothing." 

Nanine left me. 

Perhaps she had some suspicion or other, 
I thought, and went to Paris to make sure that 
my visit to my father was not an excuse for a day 
off. Perhaps Prudence wrote to her about some- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

thing important, I said to myself when I was 
alone ; but I saw Prudence ; she said nothing to 
make me suppose that she had written to Mar- 

All at once I remembered Mme. Duvernoy's 
question, " Isn't she coming to-day?" when I had 
said that Marguerite was ill. I remembered at 
the same time how embarrassed Prudence had 
appeared when I looked at her after this remark, 
which seemed to indicate an appointment. I 
remembered, too. Marguerite's tears all day long, 
which my father's kind reception had rather put 
out of my mind. From this moment all the inci- 
dents grouped themselves about my first suspicion, 
and fixed it so firmly in my mind that everything 
served to confirm it, even my father's kindness. 

Marguerite had almost insisted on my going to 
Paris ; she had pretended to be calmer when I had 
proposed staying with her. Had I fallen into 
some trap ? Was Marguerite deceiving me ? Had 
she counted on being back in time for me not to 
perceive her absence, and had she been detained 
by chance ? Why had she said nothing to Nanine, 
or why had she not written ? What was the mean- 
ing of those tears, this absence, this mystery ? 

That is what I asked myself in affright, as I 
Stood in the vacant room, gazing at the clock, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

which pointed to midnight, and seemed to say to 
me that it was too late to hope for my mistress's 
return. Yet, after all the arrangements we had 
just made, after the sacrifices that had been offered 
and accepted, was it likely that she was deceiving 
me ? No. I tried to get rid of my first suppo- 

Probably she had found a purchaser for her 
furniture, and she had gone to Paris to conclude 
the bargain. She did not wish to tell me before- 
hand, for she knew that, though I had consented 
to it, the sale, so necessary to our future happi- 
ness, was painful to me, and she feared to wound 
my self-respect in speaking to me about it. She 
would rather not see me till the whole thing was 
done, and that was evidently why Prudence was 
expecting her when she let out the secret. Mar- 
guerite could not finish the whole business to-day, 
and was staying the night with Prudence, or per- 
haps she would come even now, for she must 
know how anxious I should be, and would not 
wish to leave me in that condition. But, if so, 
why those tears ? No doubt, despite her love for 
me, the poor girl could not make up her mind to 
give up all the luxury in which she had lived until 
now, and for which she had been so envied, with- 
out crying over it. I was quite ready to forgive 


The Lady of the Camellias 

her for such regrets. I waited for her impatiently, 
that I might say to her, as I covered her with 
kisses, that I had guessed the reason of her mys- 
terious absence. 

Nevertheless, the night went on, and Mar- 
guerite did not return. 

My anxiety tightened its circle little by little, 
and began to oppress my head and heart. Per- 
haps something had happened to her. Perhaps 
she was injured, ill, dead. Perhaps a messenger 
would arrive with the news of some dreadful acci- 
dent. Perhaps the daylight would find me with 
the same uncertainty and with the same fears. 

The idea that Marguerite was perhaps unfaith- 
ful to me at the very moment when I waited for 
her in terror at her absence did not return to my 
mind. There must be some cause, independent 
of her will, to keep her away from me, and the 
more I thought, the more convinced I was that 
this cause could only be some mishap or other. 
O vanity of man, coming back to us in every 

One o'clock struck. I said to myself that I 
would wait another hour, but that at two o'clock, 
if Marguerite had not returned, I would set out 
for Paris. Meanwhile I looked about for a book, 
for I dared not think. Manon Lescaut was open 

Vol. 13—10 255 

The Lady of the Camellias 

on the table. It seemed to me that here and there 
the pages were wet as if with tears. I turned the 
leaves over and then closed the book, for the 
letters seemed to me void of meaning through 
the veil of my doubts. 

Time went slowly. The sky was covered with 
clouds. An autumn rain lashed the windows. The 
empty bed seemed at moments to assume the as- 
pect of a tomb. I was afraid. 

I opened the door. I listened, and heard noth- 
ing but the voice of the wind in the trees. Not a 
vehicle was to be seen on the road. The half hour 
sounded sadly from the church tower. 

I began to fear lest some one should enter. It 
seemed to me that only a disaster could come at 
that hour and under that sombre sky. 

Two o'clock struck. I still waited a little. 
Only the sound of the bell troubled the silence 
with its monotonous and rhythmical stroke. 

At last I left the room, where every object had 
assumed that melancholy aspect which the restless 
solitude of the heart gives to all its surroundings. 

In the next room I found Nanine sleeping 
over her work. At the sound of the door, she 
awoke and asked if her mistress had come in. 

" No ; but if she comes in, tell her that I was 
so anxious that I had to go to Paris." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" At this hour ? " 
" Yes." 

" But how ? You won't find a carriage." 

" I will walk." 

" But it is raining." 

*• No matter." 

*' But madame will be coming back, or if she 
doesn't come it will be time enough in the morn- 
ing to go and see what has kept her. You will be 
murdered on the way." 

** There is no danger, my dear Nanine ; I will 
see you to-morrow." 

The good girl went and got me a cloak, put it 
over my shoulders, and offered to wake up Mme. 
Arnould to see if a vehicle could be obtained ; 
but I would hear of nothing, convinced as I was 
that I should lose, in a perhaps fruitless inquiry, 
more time than I should take to cover half the 
road. Besides, I felt the need of air and physical 
fatigue in order to cool down the overexcitement 
which possessed me. 

I took the key of the flat in the Rue d'Antin, 
and after saying good-bye to Nanine, who came 
with me as far as the gate, I set out. 

At first I began to run, but the earth was 
muddy with rain, and I fatigued myself doubly. 
At the end of half an hour I was obliged to stop, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and I was drenched with sweat. I recovered my 
breath and went on. The night was so dark that 
at every step I feared to dash myself against one 
of the trees on the roadside, which rose up sharply 
before me like great phantoms rushing upon me. 

I overtook one or two wagons, which I soon 
left behind. A carriage was going at full gallop 
toward Bougiv^al. As it passed me the hope 
came to me that Marguerite was in it. I stopped 
and cried out, "Marguerite! Marguerite!" But 
no one answered and the carriage continued its 
course. I watched it fade away in the distance, 
and then started on my way again. I took two 
hours to reach the Barri^re de I'Etoile. The sight 
of Paris restored my strength, and I ran the whole 
length of the alley I had so often walked. 

That night no one was passing ; it was like 
going through the midst of a dead city. The 
dawn began to break. When I reached the Rue 
d'Antin the great city stirred a little before quite 
awakening. Five o'clock struck at the church of 
Saint Roch at the moment when I entered Mar- 
guerite's house. I called out my name to the 
porter, who had had from me enough twenty- 
franc pieces to know that I had the right to 
call on Mile. Gautier at five in the morning, I 
passed without difficulty. I might have asked if 


The Lady of the Camellias 

Marguerite was at home, but he might have said 
" No," and I preferred to remain in doubt two 
minutes longer, for, as long as I doubted, there 
was still hope. 

I listened at the door, trying to discover a 
sound, a movement. Nothing. The silence of 
the country seemed to be continued here. I 
opened the door and entered. All the curtains 
were hermetically closed. I drew those of the 
dining-room and went toward the bed-room and 
pushed open the door. I sprang at the curtain 
cord and drew it violently. The curtain opened, 
a faint light made its way in, I rushed to the 
bed. It was empty. 

I opened the doors one after another. I vis- 
ited every room. No one. It was enough to 
drive one mad. 

I went into the dressing-room, opened the 
window, and called Prudence several times. Mme. 
Duvernoy's window remained closed. 

I went downstairs to the porter and asked 
him if Mile. Gautier had come home during the 

" Yes," answered the man ; " with Mme. Du- 

" She left no word for me ? " 



The Lady of the Camellias 

" Do you know what they did afterward ?" 

"They went away in a carriage." 

" What sort of a carriage ?" 

" A private carriage." 

What could it all mean ? 

I rang at the next door. 

"Where are you going, sir?" asked the porter, 
when he had opened to me. 

"To Mme. Duvernoy's." 

" She has not come back." 

" You are sure ?" 

" Yes, sir ; here's a letter even, which was 
brought for her last night and which I have not 
yet given her." 

And the porter showed me a letter which I 
glanced at mechanically. I recognised Margue- 
rite's writing. I took the letter. It was ad- 
dressed, "To Mme. Duvemoy, to forward to M. 

" This letter is for me," I said to the porter, 
as I showed him the address. 

" You are M. Duval ?" he replied. 

" Yes." 

" Ah ! I remember. You often came to see 
Mme. Duvemoy." 

When I was in the street I broke the seal 
of the letter. If a thunder-bolt had fallen at 


The Lady of the Camellias 

my feet I should have been less startled than I 
was by what I read. 

" By the time you read this letter, Armand, 
I shall be the mistress of another man. All is 
over between us. 

" Go back to your father, my friend, and to 
your sister, and there, by the side of a pure young 
girl, ignorant of all our miseries, you will soon 
forget what you would have suffered through 
that lost creature who is called Marguerite Gau- 
tier, whom you have loved for an instant, and 
who owes to you the only happy moments of 
a life which, she hopes, will not be very long 

When I had read the last word, I thought I 
should have gone mad. For a moment I was 
really afraid of falling in the street. A cloud 
passed before my eyes and my blood beat in my 
temples. At last I came to myself a little. I 
looked about me, and was astonished to see the 
life of others continue without pausing at my 

I was not strong enough to endure the blow 
alone. Then I remembered that my father was 
in the same city, that I might be with him in 


The Lady of the Camellias 

ten minutes, and that, whatever might be the 
cause of my sorrow, he would share it. 

I ran like a madman, like a thief, to the 
Hotel de Paris ; I found the key in the door 
of my father's room ; I entered. He was read' 
ing. He showed so little astonishment at seeing 
me, that it was as if he was expecting me. I 
flung myself into his arms without saying a 
word. I gave him Marguerite's letter, and, fall- 
ing on my knees beside his bed, I wept hot tears. 



When the current of life had resumed its 
course, I could not believe that the day which I 
saw dawning would not be like those which had 
preceded it. There were moments when I fan- 
cied that some circumstance, which I could not 
recollect, had obliged me to spend the night away 
from Marguerite, but that, if I returned to Bougi- 
val, I should find her again as anxious as I had 
been, and that she would ask me what had de- 
tained me away from her so long. 

When one's existence has contracted a habit, 
such as that of this love, it seems impossible that 
the habit should be broken without at the same 
time breaking all the other springs of life. I 
was forced from time to time to reread Margue- 
rite's letter, in order to convince myself that I 
had not been dreaming. 

My body, succumbing to the moral shock, 
was incapable of movement. Anxiety, the night 
walk, and the morning's news had prostrated me. 
My father profited by this total prostration of all 


The Lady of the Camellias 

my faculties to demand of me a formal promise to 
accompany him. I promised all that he asked, for 
I was incapable of sustaining a discussion, and I 
needed some affection to help me to live, after 
what had happened. I was too thankful that 
my father was willing to console me under such 
a calamity. 

All that I remember is that on that day, about 
five o'clock, he took me with him in a post-chaise. 
Without a word to me, he had had my luggage 
packed and put up behind the chaise with his 
own, and so he carried me off. I did not realize 
what I was doing until the town had disappeared 
and the solitude of the road recalled to me the 
emptiness of my heart. Then my tears again 
began to flow. 

My father had realized that words, even from 
him, would do nothing to console me, and he let 
me weep without saying a word, only sometimes 
pressing my hand, as if to remind me that I had 
a friend at my side. 

At night I slept a little. I dreamed of Mar- 

I woke with a start, not recalling why I was in 
the carriage. Then the truth came back upon 
me, and I let my head sink on my breast. I dared 
not say anything to my father. I was afraid he 


The Lady of the Camellias 

would say, ** You see I was right when I de- 
clared that this woman did not love you." But 
he did not use his advantage, and we reached 
C. without his having said anything to me ex- 
cept to speak of matters quite apart from the 
event which had occasioned my leaving Paris. 

When I embraced my sister, I remembered 
what Marguerite had said about her in her let- 
ter, and I saw at once how little my sister, good 
as she was, would be able to make me forget 
my mistress. 

Shooting had begun, and my father thought 
that it would be a distraction for me. He got up 
shooting parties with friends and neighbours. I 
went without either reluctance or enthusiasm, 
with that sort of apathy into which I had sunk 
since my departure. 

We were beating about for game and I was 
given my post. I put down my unloaded gun 
at my side, and meditated. I watched the clouds 
pass. I let my thought wander over the solitary 
plains, and from time to time I heard some one 
call to me and point to a hare not ten paces off. 

None of these details escaped my father, and 
he was not deceived by my exterior calm. He 
was well aware that, broken as I now was, I 
should some day experience a terrible reaction, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

which might be dangerous, and, without seeming 
to make any effort to console me, he did his 
utmost to distract my thoughts. 

My sister, naturally, knew nothing of what 
had happened, and she could not understand how 
it was that I, who had formerly been so light- 
hearted, had suddenly become so sad and dreamy. 

Sometimes, surprising in the midst of my sad- 
ness my father's anxious scrutiny, I pressed his 
hand as if to ask him tacitly to forgive me for the 
pain which, in spite of myself, I was giving him. 

Thus a month passed, but at the end of that 
time I could endure it no longer. The memory 
of Marguerite pursued me unceasingly. I had 
loved, I still loved this woman so much that I 
could not suddenly become indifferent to her. I 
had to love or to hate her. Above all, whatever 
I felt for her, I had to see her again, and at once. 
This desire possessed my mind, and with all the 
violence of a will which had begun to reassert 
itself in a body so long inert. 

It was not enough for me to see Marguerite 
in a month, a week. I had to see her the very 
next day after the day when the thought had 
occurred to me ; and I went to my father and 
told him that I had been called to Paris on 
business, but that I should return promptly. No 


The Lady of the Camellias 

doubt he guessed the reason of my departure, 
for he insisted that I should stay, but, seeing 
that if I did not carry out my intention the 
consequences, in the state in which I was, might 
be fatal, he embraced me, and begged me, almost 
with tears, to return without delay. 

I did not sleep on the way to Paris. Once 
there, what was I going to do ? I did not know ; 
I only knew that it must be something connected 
with Marguerite. I went to my rooms to change 
my clothes, and, as the weather was fine and it 
was still early, I made my way to the Champs- 
Ely s^es. At the end of half an hour I saw Mar- 
guerite's carriage, at some distance, coming from 
the Rond-Point to the Place de la Concorde. 
She had repurchased her horses, for the carriage 
was just as I was accustomed to see it, but she was 
not in it. Scarcely had I noticed this fact, when 
looking around me, I saw Marguerite on foot, 
accompanied by a woman whom I had never seen. 

As she passed me she turned pale, and a nerv- 
ous smile tightened about her lips. For my part, 
my heart beat violently in my breast ; but I suc- 
ceeded in giving a cold expression to my face, 
as I bowed coldly to my former mistress, who just 
then reached her carriage, into which she got with 
her friend. 

ao 267 

The Lady of the Camellias 

I knew Marguerite : this unexpected meeting 
must certainly have upset her. No doubt she 
had heard that I had gone away, and had thus 
been reassured as to the consequences of our 
rupture ; but, seeing me again in Paris, finding 
herself face to face with me, pale as I was, she 
must have realized that I had not returned with- 
out purpose, and she must have asked herself 
what that purpose was. 

If I had seen Marguerite unhappy, if, in re- 
venging myself upon her, I could have come to 
her aid, I should perhaps have forgiven her, and 
certainly I should have never dreamt of doing 
her an injury. But I found her apparently happy, 
some one else had restored to her the luxury 
which I could not give her ; her breaking with 
me seemed to assume a character of the basest 
self-interest ; I was lowered in my own esteem 
as well as in my love- I resolved that she should 
pay for what I had suffered. 

I could not be indifferent to what she did, 
consequently what would hurt her the most would 
be my indifference ; it was, therefore, this senti- 
ment which I must affect, not only in her eyes, 
but in the eyes of others. 

I tried to put on a smiling countenance, and 
I went to call on Prudence. The maid announced 


The Lady of the Camellias 

me, and I had to wait a few minutes in the draw- 
ing-room. At last Mme. Duvernoy appeared and 
asked me into her boudoir ; as I seated myself 
I heard the drawing-room door open, a light foot- 
step made the floor creak and the front door was 
closed violently. 

" I am disturbing you," I said to Prudence. 

** Not in the least. Marguerite was there. 
When she heard you announced, she made her 
escape ; it was she who has just gone out." 

" Is she afraid of me now ? " 

** No, but she is afraid that you would not 
wish to see her." 

"But why?" I said, drawing my breath with 
difficulty, for I was choked with emotion. " The 
poor girl left me for her carriage, her furniture, 
and her diamonds ; she did quite right, and I 
don't bear her any grudge. I met her to-day," 
I continued carelessly. 

" Where ? " asked Prudence, looking at me 
and seeming to ask herself if this was the same 
man whom she had known so madly in love. 

" In the Champs- Elys^es. She was with 
another woman, very pretty. Who is she ? " 

" What was she like ? " 

" Blonde, slender, with side curls ; blue eyes ; 
very elegant." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Ah ! It was Olympe ; she is really very 

" Whom does she live with ? " 

'• With nobody ; with anybody." 

" Where does she live ? " 

" Rue Tronchet, No, — . Do you want to 
make love to her ? " 

" One never knows." 

"And Marguerite?" 

" I should hardly tell you the truth if I said 
I think no more about her ; but I am one of 
those with whom everything depends on the way 
in which one breaks with them. Now Marguerite 
ended with me so lightly that I realize I was a 
great fool to have been as much in love with 
her as I was, for I was really very much in love 
with that girl." 

You can imagine the way in which I said that ; 
the sweat broke out on my forehead. 

" She was very fond of you, you know, and 
she still is ; the proof is, that after meeting you 
to-day, she came straight to tell me about it. 
When she got here she was all of a tremble ; I 
thought she was going to faint." 

" Well, what did she say ?" 

" She said, ' He is sure to come here,' and she 
begged me to ask you to forgive her." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" I have forgiven her, you may tell her. She 
was a good girl ; but, after all, like the others, 
and I ought to have expected what happened. 
I am even grateful to her, for I see now what 
would have happened if I had lived with her 
altogether. It was ridiculous," 

" She will be very glad to find that you take 
it so well. It was quite time she left you, my 
dear fellow. The rascal of an agent to whom she 
had offered to sell her furniture went around to 
her creditors to find out how much she owed ; 
they took fright, and in two days she would have 
been sold up." 

" And now it is all paid ?" 

" More or less." 

" And who has supplied the money ? " 

" The Comte de N. Ah, my dear friend, there 
are men made on purpose for such occasions. To 
cut a long story short he gave her twenty thou- 
sand francs, but he has had his way at last. He 
knows quite well that Marguerite is not in love 
with him ; but he is very nice with her all the 
same. As you have seen, he has repurchased her 
horses, he has taken her jewels out of pawn, and 
he gives her as much money as the duke used 
to give her ; if she likes to live quietly, he will 
stay with her a long time." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" And what is she doing ? Is she Uving in 
Paris altogether ? " 

" She would never go back to Bougival after 
you went. I had to go myself and see after all 
her things, and yours, too. I made a package 
of them and you can send here for them. You 
will find everything, except a little case with your 
initials. Marguerite wanted to keep it. If you 
really want it, I will ask her for it." 

" Let her keep it," I stammered, for I felt the 
tears rise from my heart to my eyes at the recol- 
lection of the village where I had been so happy, 
and at the thought that Marguerite cared to keep 
something which had belonged to me and would 
recall me to her. If she had entered at that mo- 
ment my thoughts of vengeance would have dis- 
appeared, and I should have fallen at her feet. 

" For the rest," continued Prudence, " I never 
saw her as she is now ; she hardly takes any sleep, 
she goes to all the balls, she goes to suppers, 
she even drinks. The other day, after a supper, 
she had to stay in bed for a week ; and when the 
doctor let her get up, she began again at the risk 
of her life. Shall you go and see her ?" 

•' What is the good ? I came to see you, 
because you have always been charming to me, 
and I knew you before I ever knew Margue- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

rite. I owe it to you that I have been her lover, 
and also, don't I, that I am her lover no longer?" 

" Well, I did all I could to get her away from 
you, and I believe you will be thankful to me 
later on." 

" I owe you a double gratitude," I added, 
rising, for I was disgusted with the woman, seeing 
her take every word I said to her as if it were 

" You are going ? " 

" Yes." 

I had learned enough. 

" When shall I be seeing you ? " 

" Soon. Good-bye." 


Prudence saw me to the door, and I went 
back to my own rooms with tears of rage in my 
eyes and a desire for vengeance in my heart. 

So Marguerite was no different from the oth- 
ers ; so the steadfast love that she had had for 
me could not resist the desire of returning to 
her former life, and the need of having a car- 
riage and plunging into dissipation. So I said 
to myself, as I lay awake at night, though if I 
had reflected as calmly as I professed to I should 
have seen in this new and turbulent life of Mar- 
guerite the attempt to silence a constant thought, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

a ceaseless memory. Unfortunately, evil passion 
had the upper hand, and I only sought for some 
means of avenging myself on the poor creature. 
Oh, how petty and vile is man when he is wound- 
ed in one of his narrow passions ! 

This Olympe whom I had seen was, if not 
a friend of Marguerite, at all events the woman 
with whom she was most often seen since her 
return to Paris, She was going to give a ball, 
and, as I took it for granted that Marguerite 
would be there, I tried to get an invitation and 

When, full of my sorrowful emotions, I ar- 
rived at the ball, it was already very animated. 
They were dancing, shouting even, and in one 
of the quadrilles I perceived Marguerite dancing 
with the Comte de N., who seemed proud of 
showing her off, as if he said to everybody : " This 
woman is mine." 

I leaned against the mantel-piece just opposite 
Marguerite and watched her dancing. Her face 
changed the moment she caught sight of me. I 
saluted her casually with a glance of the eyes and 
a wave of the hand. 

When I reflected that after the ball she would 
go home, not with me but with that rich fool, 
when I thought of what would follow their re- 



The Lady of the Camellias 

turn, the blood rose to my face, and I felt the 
need of doing something to trouble their rela- 

After the contredanse I went up to the mis- 
tress of the house, who displayed for the benefit 
of her guests a dazzling bosom and magnifi- 
cent shoulders. She was beautiful, and, from the 
point of view of figure, more beautiful than Mar- 
guerite. I realized this fact still more clearly 
from certain glances which Marguerite bestowed 
upon her while I was talking with her. The man 
who was the lover of such a woman might well 
be as proud as M. de N., and she was beautiful 
enough to inspire a passion not less great than 
that which Marguerite had inspired in me. At 
that moment she had no lover. It would not be 
difficult to become so ; it depended only on show- 
ing enough money to attract her attention. 

I made up my mind. That woman should be 
my mistress. I began by dancing with her. Half 
an hour afterward, Marguerite, pale as death, put 
on her pelisse and left the ball. 



It was something already, but it was not 
enough. I saw the hold which I had upon this 
woman, and I took a cowardly advantage of it. 

When I think that she is dead now, I ask 
myself if God will ever forgive me for the wrong 
I did her. 

After the supper, which was noisy as could be, 
there was gambling. I sat by the side of Olympe 
and put down my money so recklessly that she 
could not but notice me. In an instant I had 
gained one hundred and fifty or two hundred 
louis, which I spread out before me on the table, 
and on which she fastened her eyes greedily. 

I was the only one not too completely ab- 
sorbed by the game, and able to pay her some 
attention. All the rest of the night I gained, and 
it was I who gave her money to play, for she had 
lost all she had before her and probably all she 
had in the house. 

At five in the morning, the guests departed. 
I had gained three hundred louis. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

All the players were already on their way 
downstairs ; I was the only one who had remained 
behind, and as I did not know any of them, no 
one noticed it. Olympe herself was lighting the 
way, and I was going to follow the others, when, 
turning back, I said to her: 

" I must speak to you." 

*' To-morrow," she said. 

" No, now." 

" What have you to say ? " 

" You will see." 

And I went back into the room. 

"You have lost," I said. 

" Yes." 

" All that you had in the house ?" 

She hesitated. 

•' Be frank." 

" Well, it is true." 

" I have won three hundred louis. Here they 
are, if you will let me stay here to-night." 

And I threw the gold on the table. 

" And why this proposition ? " 

" Because I am in love with you, of course." 

" No, but because you love Marguerite, and 
you want to have your revenge upon her by be- 
coming my lover. You don't deceive a woman 
like me, my dear friend ; unluckily, I am still too 


The Lady of the Camellias 

young and too good-looking to accept the part 
that vou offer me." 

" So you refuse ? " 

" Yes." 

•' Would you rather take me for nothing ? It 
is I who wouldn't accept then. Think it over, 
my dear Olympe ; if I had sent some one to 
offer you these three hundred louis on my be- 
half, on the conditions I attach to them, you 
would have accepted. I preferred to speak to 
you myself. Accept without inquiring into my 
reasons ; say to yourself that you are beautiful, 
and that there is nothing surprising in my being 
in love with you." 

Marguerite was a woman in the same position 
as Olympe, and yet I should never have dared say 
to her the first time I met her what I had said 
to the other woman. I loved Marguerite. I saw 
in her instincts which were lacking in the other, 
and at the very moment in which I made my 
bargain, I felt a disgust toward the woman with 
whom I was making it. 

She accepted, of course, in the end, and at 
midday I left her house as her lover ; but I 
quitted her without a recollection of the caresses 
and of the words of love which she had felt bound 
to shower upon me in return for the six thousand 


The Lady of the Camellias 

francs which I left with her. And yet there were 
men who had ruined themselves for that woman. 

From that day I inflicted on Marguerite a 
continual persecution. Olympe and she gave up 
seeing one another, as you might imagine. I 
gave my new mistress a carriage and jewels. I 
gambled, I committed every extravagance which 
could be expected of a man in love with such a 
woman as Olympe. The report of my new in- 
fatuation was immediately spread abroad. 

Prudence herself was taken in, and finally 
thought that I had completely forgotten Mar- 
guerite. Marguerite herself, whether she guessed 
my motive or was deceived like everybody else, 
preserved a perfect dignity in response to the 
insults which I heaped upon her daily. Only, 
she seemed to suffer, for whenever I met her 
she was more and more pale, more and more sad. 
My love for her, carried to the point at which it 
was transformed into hatred, rejoiced at the sight 
of her daily sorrow. Often, when my cruelty to- 
ward her became infamous, Marguerite lifted upon 
me such appealing eyes that I blushed for the part 
I was playing, and was ready to implore her for- 

But my repentance was only of a moment's 
duration, and Olympe, who had finally put aside 


The Lady of the Camellias 

all self-respect, and discovered that by annoying 
Marguerite she could get from me whatever she 
wanted, constantly stirred up my resentment 
against her, and insulted her whenever she found 
an opportunity, with the cowardly peristence of a 
woman licensed by the authority of a man. 

At last Marguerite gave up going to balls or 
theatres, for fear of meeting Olympe and me. 
Then direct impertinences gave way to anonymous 
letters, and there was not a shameful thing which 
I did not encourage my mistress to relate and 
which I did not myself relate in reference to 

To reach such a point I must have been liter- 
ally mad. I was like a man drunk upon bad 
wine, who falls into one of those nervous ex- 
altations in which the hand is capable of com- 
mitting a crime without the head knowing any- 
thing about it. In the midst of it all I endured 
a martyrdom. The not disdainful calm, the not 
contemptuous dignity with which Marguerite re- 
sponded to all my attacks, and which raised her 
above me in my own eyes, enraged me still more 
against her. 

One evening Olympe had gone somewhere or 
other, and had met Marguerite, who for once had 
not spared the foolish creature, so that she had 


The Lady of the Camellias 

had to retire in confusion. Olympe returned in a 
fury, and Marguerite fainted and had to be car- 
ried out. Olympe related to me what had hap- 
pened, declared that Marguerite, seeing her alone, 
had revenged herself upon her because she was 
my mistress, and that I must write and tell her 
to respect the woman whom I loved, whether I 
was present or absent. 

I need not tell you that I consented, and that 
I put into the letter which I sent to her address 
the same day, everything bitter, shameful, and 
cruel that I could think of. 

This time the blow was more than the un- 
happy creature could endure without replying. 
I felt sure that an answer would come, and I 
resolved not to go out all day. About two there 
was a ring, and Prudence entered. 

I tried to assume an indifferent air as I asked 
her what had brought her ; but that day Mme. 
Duvernoy was not in a laughing humour, and in a 
really moved voice she said to me that since my 
return, that is to say for about three weeks, I had 
left no occasion untried which could give pain to 
Marguerite, that she was completely upset by it, 
and that the scene of last night and my angry 
letter of the morning had forced her to take to 
her bed. In short, without making any reproach, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

Marguerite sent to ask me for a little pity, since 
she had no longer the moral or pliysical strength 
to endure what I was making her suffer. 

" That Mile. Gautier," I said to Prudence, 
" should turn me out of her own house is quite 
reasonable, but that she should insult the woman 
whom I love, under the pretence that this woman 
is my mistress, is a thing I will never permit." 

"My friend," said Prudence, "you are under 
the influence of a woman who has neither heart 
nor sense ; you are in love with her, it is true, 
but that is not a reason for torturing a woman 
who can not defend herself." 

" Let Mile. Gautier send me her Comte de N. 
and the sides will be equal." 

" You know very well that she will not do 
that. So, my dear Armand, let her alone. If 
you saw her you would be ashamed of the way in 
which you are treating her. She is white, she 
coughs — she won't last long now." 

And Prudence held out her hand to me, add- 
ing : 

" Come and see her ; it will make her very 

" I have no desire to meet M. de N." 

" M. de N. is never there. She can not en- 
dure him." 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" If Marguerite wishes to see me, she knows 
where I live ; let her come to see me, but, for my 
part, I will never put foot in the Rue d'Antin." 

" Will you receive her well ? " 


" Well, I am sure that she will come." 

" Let her come." 

•* Shall you be out to-day ? " 

" I shall be at home all the evening." 

" I will tell her." 

And Prudence left me. 

I did not even write to tell Olympe not to 
expect me. I never troubled much about her, 
scarcely going to see her one night a week. She 
consoled herself, I believe, with an actor from 
some theatre or other. 

I went out for dinner and came back almost 
immediately. I had a fire lit in my room and I 
told Joseph he could go out. 

I can give you no idea of the different impres- 
sions which agitated me during the hour in which 
I waited ; but when, toward nine o'clock, I heard 
a ring, they thronged together into one such 
emotion, that, as I opened the door, I was obliged 
to lean against the wall to keep myself from 

Fortunately the anteroom was in half dark- 
ai 283 

The Lady of the Camellias 

ness, and the change in my countenance was less 

Marguerite entered. 

She was dressed in black and veiled. I could 
scarcely recognise her face through the veil. She 
went into the drawing-room and raised her veil. 
She was pale as marble. 

"I am here, Armand," she said ; "you wished 
to see me and I have come." 

And letting her head fall on her hands, she 
burst into tears. 

I went up to her. 

"What is the matter?" I said to her in a low 

She pressed my hand without a word, for tears 
still veiled her voice. But after a few minutes, 
recovering herself a little, she said to me : 

" You have been very unkind to me, Armand, 
and I have done nothing to you." 

"Nothing?" I answered, with a bitter smile. 

" Nothing but what circumstances forced me 
to do." 

I do not know if you have ever in your life 
experienced, or if you will ever experience, what 
I felt at the sight of Marguerite. 

The last time she had come to see me she had 
sat in the same place where she was now sitting ; 


The Lady of the Camellias 

only, since then, she had been the mistress of 
another man, other kisses than mine had touched 
her Hps, toward which, in spite of myself, my own 
reached out, and yet I felt that I loved this 
woman as much, more perhaps, than I had ever 
loved her. 

It was difficult for me to begin the conversa- 
tion on the subject which brought her. Mar- 
guerite no doubt reahzed it, for she went on : 

" I have come to trouble you, Armand, for I 
have two things to ask : pardon for what I said 
yesterday to Mile. Olympe, and pity for what you 
are perhaps still ready to do to me. Intentionally 
or not, since your return you have given me so 
much pain that I should be incapable now of 
enduring a fourth part of what I have endured 
till now. You will have pity on me, won't you ? 
And you will understand that a man who is not 
heartless has other nobler things to do than to 
take his revenge upon a sick and sad woman like 
me. See, take my hand. I am in a fever. I 
left my bed to come to you, and ask, not for your 
friendship, but for your indifference." 

I took Marguerite's hand. It was burning, 
and the poor woman shivered under her fur cloak. 

I rolled the arm-chair in which she was sitting 
up to the fire. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Do you think, then, that I did not suffer," 
said I, "on that night when, after waiting for you 
in the country, I came to look for you in Paris, 
and found nothing but the letter which nearly 
drove me mad ? How could you have deceived 
me, Marguerite, when I loved you so much ? " 

" Do not speak of that, Armand ; I did not 
come to speak of that. I wanted to see you only 
not an enemy, and I wanted to take your hand 
once more. You have a mistress ; she is young, 
pretty, you love her they say. Be happy with her 
and forget me." 

** And you. You are happy, no doubt ? " 

" Have I the face of a happy woman, Armand ? 
Do not mock my sorrow, you, who know better 
than any one what its cause and its depth are." 

" It only depended on you not to have been 
unhappy at all, if you are as you say." 

" No, my friend ; circumstances were stronger 
than my will. I obeyed, not the instincts of a 
light woman, as you seem to say, but a serious 
necessity, and reasons which you will know one 
day, and which will make you forgive me." 

" Why do you not tell me those reasons to- 

" Because they would not bring about an im- 
possible reunion between us, and they would 


The Lady of the Camellias 

separate you perhaps from those from whom you 
must not be separated." 

" Who do you mean ? " 

" I can not tell you." 

"Then you are lying to me." 

Marguerite rose and went toward the door. I 
could not behold this silent and expressive sorrow 
without being touched, when I compared in my 
mind this pale and weeping woman with the 
madcap who had made fun of me at the Op^ra 

" You shall not go," I said, putting myself 
in front of the door. 

" Why ? " 

" Because, in spite of what you have done to 
me, I love you always, and I want you to stay 

"To turn me out to-morrow ? No ; it is im- 
possible. Our destinies are separate ; do not try 
to reunite them. You will despise me perhaps, 
while now you can only hate me." 

" No, Marguerite," I cried, feeling all my love 
and all my desire reawaken at the contact of this 
woman. " No, I will forget everything, and we 
will be happy as we promised one another that 
we would be." 

Marguerite shook her head doubtfully, and said: 
\oi. 13— n 287 

The Lady of the Camellias 

" Am I not your slave, your dog ? Do with 
me what you will. Take me ; I am yours." 

And throwing off her cloak and hat, she flung 
them on the sofa, and began hurriedly to undo the 
front of her dress, for, by one of those reactions 
so frequent in her malady, the blood rushed to her 
head and stifled her. A hard, dry cough followed. 

" Tell my coachman," she said, "to go back 
with the carriage." 

I went down myself and sent him away. 
When I returned Marguerite was lying in front of 
the fire, and her teeth chattered with the cold. 

I took her in my arms. I undressed her, 
without her making a movement, and carried 
her, icy cold, to the bed. Then I sat beside her 
and tried to warm her with my caresses. She did 
not speak a word, but smiled at me. 

It was a strange night. All Marguerite's life 
seemed to have passed into the kisses with which 
she covered me, and I loved her so much that 
in my transports of feverish love I asked my- 
self whether I should not kill her, so that she 
might never belong to another. 

A month of love like that, and there would 
have remained only the corpse of heart or body. 

The dawn found us both awake. Marguerite 
was livid white. She did not speak a word. From 


The Lady of the Camellias 

time to time, big tears rolled from her eyes, and 
stayed upon her cheeks, shining like diamonds. 
Her thin arms opened, from time to time, to 
hold me fast, and fell back helplessly upon the 

For a moment it seemed to me as if I could 
forget all that had passed since I had left Bougi- 
val, and I said to Marguerite : 

" Shall we go away and leave Paris?" 

" No, no ! " she said, almost with affright ; "we 
should be too unhappy. I can do no more to 
make you happy, but while there is a breath of 
life in me, I will be the slave of your fancies. 
At whatever hour of the day or night you will, 
come, and I will be yours ; but do not link your 
future any more with mine, you would be too 
unhappy and you would make me too unhappy. 
I shall still be pretty for a while ; make the most 
of it, but ask nothing more." 

When she had gone, I was frightened at the 
solitude in which she left me. Two hours after- 
ward I was still sitting on the side of the bed, 
looking at the pillow which kept the imprint of 
her form, and asking myself what was to be- 
come of me, between my love and my jealousy. 

At five o'clock, without knowing what I was 
going to do, I went to the Rue d'Antin. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

Nanine opened to me. 

" Madame can not receive you," she said in 
an embarrassed way. 


" Because M. le Comte de N. is there, and he 
has given orders to let no one in." 

"Quite so," I stammered ; " I forgot." 

I went home like a drunken man, and do you 
know what I did during the moment of jealous 
delirium which was long enough for the shameful 
thing I was going to do ? I said to myself that 
the woman was laughing at me ; I saw her alone 
with the count, saying over to him the same 
words that she had said to me in the night, and 
taking a five-hundred-franc note I sent it to her 
with these words : 

" You went away so suddenly that I forgot to 
pay you. Here is the price of your night." 

Then when the letter was sent I went out as 
if to free myself from the instantaneous remorse 
of this infamous action. 

I went to see Olympe, whom I found trying on 
dresses, and when we were alone she sang obscene 
songs to amuse me. She was the ver}^ type of 
the shameless, heartless, senseless courtesan, for 


The Lady of the Camellias 

me at least, for perhaps some men might have 
dreamed of her as I dreamed of Marguerite. She 
asked me for money. I gave it to her, and, free 
then to go, I returned home. 

Marguerite had not answered. 

I need not tell you in what state of agitation 
I spent the next day. At half past nine a mes- 
senger brought me an envelope containing my 
letter and the five-hundred-franc note, not a word 

" Who gave you this ?" I asked the man. 

" A lady who was starting with her maid in 
the next mail for Boulogne, and who told me not 
to take it until the coach was out of the court- 

I rushed to the Rue d'Antin. 

" Madame left for England at six o'clock," said 
the porter. 

There was nothing to hold me in Paris any 
longer, neither hate nor love. I was exhausted 
by this series of shocks. One of my friends was 
setting out on a tour in the East. I told my 
father I should like to accompany him ; my 
father gave me drafts and letters of introduc- 
tion, and eight or ten days afterward I embarked 
at Marseilles. 

It was at Alexandria that I learned from an 

The Lady of the Camellias 

attache at the embassy, whom I had sometimes 
seen at Marguerite's, that the poor girl was seri- 
ously ill. 

I then wrote her the letter which she answered 
in the way you know ; I received it at Toulon. 

I started at once, and you know the rest. 

Now you have only to read a few sheets 
which Julie Duprat gave me ; they are the best 
commentary on what I have just told you. 



Armand, tired by this long narrative, often 
interrupted by his tears, put his two hands over 
his forehead and closed his eyes to think, or to 
try to sleep, after giving me the pages written 
by the hand of Marguerite. A few minutes after, 
a more rapid breathing told me that Armand 
slept, but that light sleep which the least sound 

This is what I read ; I copy it without adding 
or omitting a syllable : 

To-day is the 15th December. I have been ill 
three or four days. This morning I stayed in 
bed. The weather is dark, I am sad ; there is no 
one by me. I think of you, Armand, And you, 
where are you, while I write these lines ? Far 
from Paris, far, far, they tell me, and perhaps 
you have already forgotten Marguerite. Well, 
be happy ; I owe you the only happy moments 
in my life. 

I can not help wanting to explain all my con- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

duct to you, and I have written you a letter ; but, 
written by a girl like me, such a letter might seem 
to be a lie, unless death had sanctified it by its 
authority, and, instead of a letter, it were a con- 

To-day I am ill ; I may die of this illness, for 
I have always had the presentiment that I shall 
die young. My mother died of consumption, and 
the way I have always lived could but increase 
the only heritage she ever left me. But I do not 
want to die without clearing up for you every- 
thing about me ; that is, if, when you come back, 
you will still trouble yourself about the poor girl 
whom you loved before you went away. 

This is what the letter contained ; I shall like 
writing it over again, so as to give myself another 
proof of my own justification. 

You remember, Armand, how the arrival of 
your father surprised us at Bougival ; you remem- 
ber the involuntary fright that his arrival caused 
me, and the scene which took place between you 
and him, which you told me of in the evening. 

Next day, when you were at Paris, waiting for 
your father, and he did not return, a man came to 
the door and handed in a letter from M. Duval. 

His letter, which I inclose with this, begged 
me, in the most serious terms, to keep you away 


The Lady of the Camellias 

on the following day, on some excuse or other, 
and to see your father, who wished to speak to 
me, and asked me particularly not to say anything 
to you about it. 

You know how I insisted on your returning to 
Paris next day. 

You had only been gone an hour when your 
father presented himself. I won't say what im- 
pression his severe face made upon me. Your 
father had the old theory that a courtesan is a 
being without heart or reason, a sort of machine 
for coining gold, always ready, like the machine, 
to brUise the hand that gives her everything, and 
to tear in pieces, without pity or discernment, 
those who set her in motion. 

Your father had written me a very polite 
letter, in order that I might consent to see him ; 
he did not present himself quite as he had writ- 
ten. His manner at first was so stiff, insolent, 
and even threatening, that I had to make him 
understand that I was in my own house, and that 
I had no need to render him an account of my 
life, except because of the sincere affection which 
I had for his son. 

M. Duval calmed down a little, but still went 
on to say that he could not any longer allow his 
son to ruin himself over me ; that I was beautiful, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

it was true, but, however beautiful I might be, 
I ought not to make use of my beauty to spoil 
the future of a young man by such expenditure 
as I was causing. 

At that there was only one thing to do, to 
show him the proof that since I was your mistress 
I had spared no sacrifice to be faithful to you 
without asking for more money than you had to 
give me. I showed him the pawn tickets, the 
receipts of the people to whom I had sold what 
I could not pawn ; I told him of my resolve to 
part with my furniture in order to pay my debts, 
and live with you without being a too heavy ex- 
pense. I told him of our happiness, of how you 
had shown me the possibility of a quieter and 
happier life, and he ended by giving in to the evi- 
dence, offering me his hand, and asking pardon 
for the way in which he had at first approached 

Then he said to me : 

" So, madame, it is not by remonstrances or 
by threats, but by entreaties, that I must en- 
deavour to obtain from you a greater sacrifice 
than you have yet made for my son." 

I trembled at this beginning. 

Your father came over to me, took both my 
hands, and continued in an affectionate voice : 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" My child, do not take what I have to say to 
you amiss ; only remember that there are some- 
times in life cruel necessities for the heart, but that 
they must be submitted to. You are good, your 
soul has generosity unknown to many women 
who perhaps despise you, and are less worthy than 
you. But remember that there is not only the 
mistress, but the family ; that besides love there 
are duties ; that to the age of passion succeeds the 
age when man, if he is to be respected, must plant 
himself solidly in a serious position. My son has 
no fortune, and yet he is ready to abandon to you 
the legacy of his mother. If he accepted from 
you the sacrifice which you are on the point of 
making, his honour and dignity would require 
him to give you, in exchange for it, this income, 
which would always put you out of danger of 
adversity. But he can not accept this sacrifice, 
because the world, which does not know you, 
would give a wrong interpretation to this accept- 
ance, and such an interpretation must not tarnish 
the name which we bear. No one would con- 
sider whether Armand loves you, whether you 
love him, whether this mutual love means happi- 
ness to him and redemption to you ; they would 
see only one thing, that Armand Duval allowed a 
kept woman (forgive me, my child, for what I am 


The Lady of the Camellias 

forced to say to you) to sell all she had for him. 
Then the day of reproaches and regrets would 
arrive, be sure, for you or for others, and you 
would both bear a chain that you could not sever. 
What would you do then ? Your youth would 
be lost, my son's future destroyed ; and I, his 
father, should receive from only one of my chil- 
dren the recompense that I look for from both. 

" You are young, beautiful, life will console 
you ; you are noble, and the memory of a good 
deed will redeem you from many past deeds. 
During the six months that he has known you 
Armand has forgotten me. I wrote to him four 
times, and he has never once replied. I might 
have died and he not known it ! 

" Whatever may be your resolution of living 
otherwise than as you have lived, Armand, who 
loves you, will never consent to the seclusion to 
which his modest fortune would condemn you, and 
to which your beauty does not entitle you. Who 
knows what he would do then ! He has gambled, 
I know ; without telling you of it, I know also, 
but, in a moment of madness, he might have lost 
part of what I have saved, during many years, for 
my daughter's portion, for him, and for the repose 
of my old age. What might have happened may 
yet happen. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

"Are you sure, besides, that the life which 
you are giving up for him will never again come 
to attract you ? Are you sure, you who have loved 
him, that you will never love another ? Would 
you not suffer on seeing the hindrances set by 
your love to your lover's life, hindrances for which 
you would be powerless to console him, if, with 
age, thoughts of ambition should succeed to 
dreams of love ? Think over all that, madame. 
You love Armand ; prove it to him by the sole 
means which remains to you of yet proving it 
to him, by sacrificing your love to his future. 
No misfortune has yet arrived, but one will ar- 
rive, and perhaps a greater one than those which 
I foresee. Armand might become jealous of a 
man who has loved you ; he might provoke him, 
fight, be killed. Think, then, what you would 
suffer in the presence of a father who should call 
on you to render an account for the life of his 
son ! 

" Finally, my dear child, let me tell you all, 
for I have not yet told you all, let me tell you 
what has brought me to Paris. I have a daughter, 
as I have told you, young, beautiful, pure as an 
angel. She loves, and she, too, has made this 
love the dream of her life. I wrote all that to 
Armand, but, absorbed in you, he made no reply. 
23 299 

The Lady of the Camellias 

Well, my daughter is about to marry. She is to 
marry the man whom she loves ; she enters an 
honourable family, which requires that mine has 
to be no less honourable. The family of the man 
who is to become my son-in-law has learned what 
manner of life Armand is leading in Paris, and 
has declared to me that the marriage must be 
broken off if Armand continues this life. The 
future of a child who has done nothing against 
you, and who has the right of looking forward 
to a happy future, is in your hands. Have you 
the right, have you the strength, to shatter it ? 
In the name of your love and of your repentance, 
Marguerite, grant me the happiness of my child." 
I wept silently, my friend, at all these reflec- 
tions which I had so often made, and which, in 
the mouth of your father, took a yet more serious 
reality. I said to myself all that your father 
dared not say to me, though it had come to his 
lips twenty times : that I was, after all, only a 
kept woman, and that whatever excuse I gave 
for our liaison, it would always look like calcula- 
tion on my part ; that my past life left me no 
right to dream of such a future, and that I was 
accepting responsibilities for which my habits and 
reputation were far from giving any guarantee. 
In short, I loved you, Armand. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

The paternal way in which M. Duval had 
spoken to me ; the pure memories that he awak- 
ened in me ; the respect of this old man, which I 
would gain ; yours, which I was sure of gaining 
later on : all that called up in my heart thoughts 
which raised me in my own eyes with a sort of 
holy pride, unknown till then. When I thought 
that one day this old man, who was now imploring 
me for the future of his son, would bid his daugh- 
ter mingle my name with her prayers, as the name 
of a mysterious friend, I seemed to become trans- 
formed, and I felt a pride in myself. 

The exaltation of the moment perhaps exag- 
gerated the truth of these impressions, but that 
was what I felt, friend, and these new feelings 
silenced the memory of the happy days I had 
spent with you. 

"Tell me, sir," I said to your father, wiping 
away my tears, " do you believe that I love your 

" Yes," said M. Duval. 

"With a disinterested love?" 


" Do you believe that I had made this love 
the hope, the dream, the forgiveness of my life?" 

" Implicitly." 

"Well, sir, embrace me once, as you would 

The Lady of the Camellias 

embrace your daughter, and I swear to you that 
that kiss, the only chaste kiss I have ever had, will 
make me strong against my love, and that within 
a week your son will be once more at your side, 
perhaps unhappy for a time, but cured forever." 

'' You are a noble child," replied your father, 
kissing me on the forehead, " and you are making 
an attempt for which God will reward you ; b|^ 
I greatly fear that you will have no infTuence 
upon my son." 

" Oh, be at rest, sir ; he will hate me." 

I had to set up between us, as much for me 
as for you, an insurmountable barrier. 

I wrote to Prudence to say that I accepted the 
proposition of the Comte de N., and that she was 
to tell him that I would sup with her and him. 
I sealed the letter, and, without telling him what 
it contained, asked your father to have it for- 
warded to its address on reaching Paris. 

He inquired of me what it contained. 

" Your son's welfare," I answered. 

Your father embraced me once more. I felt 
two grateful tears on my forehead, like the bap- 
tism of my past faults, and at the moment when 
I consented to give myself up to another man 
I glowed with pride at the thought of what I was 
redeeming by this new fault. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

It was quite natural, Armand. You told me 
that your father was the most honest man in the 

M. Duval returned to his carriage, and set out 
for Paris. 

I was only a woman, and when I saw you 
again I could not help weeping, but I did not give 

Did I do right ? That is what I ask myself 
to-day, as I lie ill in my bed, that I shall never 
leave, perhaps, until I am dead. 

You are witness of what I felt as the hour of 
our separation approached ; your father was no 
longer there to support me, and there was a 
moment when I was on the point of confessing 
everything to you, so terrified was I at the idea 
that you were going to hate and despise me. 

One thing which you will not believe, per- 
haps, Armand, is that I prayed God to give me 
strength ; and what proves that he accepted my 
sacrifice is that he gave me the strength for 
which I prayed. 

At supper I still had need of aid, for I could 
not think of what I was going to do, so much 
did I fear that my courage would fail me. Who 
would ever have said that I, Marguerite Gautier, 
would have suffered so at the mere thought of a 


The Lady of the Camellias 

new lover ? I drank for forgetfulness, and when 
I woke next day I was beside the count. 

That is the whole truth, friend. Judge me 
and pardon me, as I have pardoned you for all the 
wrong that you have done me since that day. 



What followed that fatal night you know as 
well as I ; but what you can not know, what you 
can not suspect, is what I have suffered since our 

I heard that your father had taken you away 
with him, but I felt sure that you could not live 
away from me for long, and when I met you in 
the Champs-Elys^es, I was a little upset, but by 
no means surprised. 

Then began that series of days ; each of them 
brought me a fresh insult from you. I received 
them all with a kind of joy, for, besides proving to 
me that you still loved me, it seemed to me as if 
the more you persecuted me the more I should be 
raised in your eyes when you came to know the 

Do not wonder at my joy in martyrdom, Ar- 
mand ; your love for me had opened my heart to 
noble enthusiasm. 

Still, I was not so strong as that quite at once. 

Between the time of the sacrifice made for you 

The Lady of the Camellias 

and the time of your return a long while elapsed, 
during which I was obliged to have recourse to 
physical means in order not to go mad, and in 
order to be blinded and deafened in the whirl of 
life into which I flung myself. Prudence has told 
you (has she not ?) how I went to all the fetes 
and balls and orgies. I had a sort of hope that I 
should kill myself by all these excesses, and I 
think it will not be long before this hope is real- 
ized. My health naturally got worse and worse, 
and when I sent Mme. Duvernoy to ask you for 
pity I was utterly worn out, body and soul. 

I will not remind you, Armand, of the return 
you made for the last proof of love that I gave 
you, and of the outrage by which you drove away 
a dying woman, who could not resist your voice 
when you asked her for a night of love, and who, 
like a fool, thought for one instant, that she might 
again unite the past with the present. You had 
the right to do what you did, Armand ; people 
have not always put so high a price on a night of 
mine ! 

I left everything after that. Olympe has taken 
my place with the Comte de N., and has told 
him, I hear, the reasons for my leaving him. The 
Comte de G. was at London. He is one of those 
men who give just enough importance to making 


The Lady of the Camellias 

love to women like me for it to be an agreeable 
pastime, and who are thus able to remain friends 
with women, not hating them because they have 
never been jealous of them, and he is, too, one of 
those grand seigneurs who open only a part of 
their hearts to us, but the whole of their purses. 
It was of him that I immediately thought. I 
joined him in London. He received me as kindly 
as possible, but he was the lover there of a woman 
in society, and he feared to compromise himself 
if he were seen with me. He introduced me to 
his friends, who gave a supper in my honour, after 
which one of them took me home with him. 

What else was there for me to do, my friend ? 
If I had killed myself it would have burdened 
your life, which ought to be happy, with a need- 
less remorse ; and then, what is the good of killing 
oneself when one is so near dying already ? 

I became a body without a soul, a thing with- 
out a thought ; I lived for some time in that auto- 
matic way ; then I returned to Paris, and asked 
after you ; I heard then that you were gone on a 
long voyage. There was nothing left to hold me 
to life. My existence became what it had been 
two years before I knew you. I tried to win back 
the duke, but I had offended him too deeply. 
Old men are not patient, no doubt because they 


The Lady of the Camellias 

realize that they are not eternal. I got weaker 
every day. I was pale and sad and thinner than 
ever. Men who buy love examine the goods before 
taking them. At Paris there were women in bet- 
ter health, and not so thin as I was ; I was rather 
forgotten. That is all the past up to yesterday. 

Now I am seriously ill. I have written to the 
duke to ask him for money, for I have none, and 
the creditors have returned, and come to me with 
their bills with pitiless perseverance. Will the 
duke answer ? Why are you not in Paris, Ar- 
mand ? You would come and see me, and your 
visits would do me good. 

December 20. 

The weather is horrible ; it is snowing, and I 
am alone. I have been in such a fever for the 
last three days that I could not write you a word. 
No news, my friend ; every day I hope vaguely 
for a letter from you, but it does not come, and no 
doubt it will never come. Only men are strong 
enough not to forgive. The duke has not an- 

Prudence is pawning my things again. 

I have been spitting blood all the time. Oh, 
you would be sorry for me if you could see me. 
You are indeed happy to be under a warm sky, 
and not, like me, with a whole winter of ice on 


The Lady of the Camellias 

your chest. To-day I got up for a little while, 
and looked out through the curtains of my win- 
dow, and watched the life of Paris passing below, 
the life with which I have now nothing more to 
do. I saw the faces of some people I knew, pass- 
ing rapidly, joyous and careless. Not one lifted 
his eyes to my window. However, a few young 
men have come to inquire for me. Once before I 
was ill, and you, though you did not know me, 
though you had had nothing from me but an im- 
pertinence the day I met you first, you came to 
inquire after me every day. We spent six 
months together. I had all the love for you 
that a woman's heart can hold and give, and you 
are far away, you are cursing me, and there is not 
a word of consolation from you. But it is only 
chance that has made you leave me, I am sure, for 
if you were at Paris, you would not leave my bed- 

December 2^. 

My doctor tells me I must not write every 
day. And indeed my memories only increase my 
fever, but yesterday I received a letter which did 
me good, more because of what it said than by 
the material help which it contained. I can write 
to you, then, to-day. This letter is from your 
father, and this is what it says : 


The Lady of the Camellias 

" Madame : I have just learned that you are ill. 
If I were at Paris I would come and ask after you 
myself ; if my son were here I would send him ; 
but I can not leave C, and Armand is six or seven 
hundred leagues from here ; permit me, then, 
simply to write to you, madame, to tell you how 
pained I am to hear of your illness, and believe 
in my sincere wishes for your speedy recover}^ 

"One of my good friends, M. H., will call on 
you ; will you kindly receive him ? I have in- 
trusted him with a commission, the result of 
which I await impatiently. 

" Believe me, madame, 

" Yours most faithfully." 

This is the letter he sent me. Your father has 
a noble heart ; love him well, my friend, for there 
are few men so worthy of being loved. This paper 
signed by his name has done me more good than 
all the prescriptions of our great doctor. 

This morning M. H. called. He seemed much 
embarrassed by the delicate mission which M. 
Duval had intrusted to him. As a matter of fact, 
he came to bring me three thousand francs from 
your father. I wanted to refuse at first, but M. 
H. told me that my refusal would annoy M. Duval, 
who had authorized him to give me this sum now, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and later on whatever I might need. I accepted 
it, for, coming from your father, it could not be 
exactly taking alms. If I am dead when you 
come back, show your father what I have written 
for him, and tell him that in writing these lines 
the poor woman to whom he was kind enough to 
write so consoling a letter wept tears of gratitude 
and prayed God for him. 

yanuary 4. 

I have passed some terrible days. I never 
knew the body could suffer so. Oh, my past life ! 
I pay doubly for it now. 

There has been some one to watch by me every 
night ; I can not breathe. What remains of my 
poor existence is shared between being delirious 
and coughing. 

The dining-room is full of sweets and all sorts 
of presents that my friends have brought. Some 
of them, I dare say, are hoping that I shall be 
their mistress later on. If they could see what 
sickness has made of me, they would go away in 

Prudence is giving her New Year's presents 
with those I have received. 

There is a thaw, and the doctor says that I may 
go out in a few days if the fine weather con- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

^January 8. 

I went out yesterday in my carriage. The 
weather was lovely. The Champs-Elys^es was full 
of people. It was like the first smile of spring. 
Everything about me had a festal air. I never 
knew before that a ray of sunshine could contain 
so much joy, sweetness, and consolation. 

I met almost all the people I knew, all happy, 
all absorbed in their pleasures. How many happy 
people don't even know that they are happy ! 
Olympe passed me in an elegant carriage that M. 
de N. has given her. She tried to insult me by 
her look. She little knows how far I am from 
such things now. A nice fellow, whom I have 
known for a long time, asked me if I would have 
supper with him and one of his friends, who, he 
said, was very anxious to make my acquaintance. 
I smiled sadly and gave him my hand, burning 
with fever. I never saw such an astonished coun- 

I came in at four, and had quite an appetite 
for my dinner. Going out has done me good. If 
I were only going to get well ! * How the sight of 
the life and happiness of others gives a desire of 
life to those who, only the night before, in the 
solitude of their souls and in the shadow of their 
sick-room, only wanted to die soon ! 


The Lady of the Camellias 

January lo. 

The hope of getting better was only a dream. 
I am back in bed again, covered with plasters 
which burn me. If I were to offer the body that 
people paid so dear for once, how much would 
they give, I wonder, to-day ? 

We must have done something very wicked 
before we were born, or else we must be going to 
be very happy indeed when we are dead, for God 
to let this life have all the tortures of expiation 
and all the sorrows of an ordeal. 

January Z2. 

I am always ill. 

The Comte de N. sent me some money yester- 
day. I did not keep it. I won't take anything 
from that man. It is through him that you are 
not here. 

Oh, that good time at Bougival ! Where is it 
now ? 

If I come out of this room alive I will make a 
pilgrimage to the house we lived in together, but 
I will never leave it until I am dead. 

Who knows if I shall write to you to-morrow ? 

January 2J. 

I have not slept for eleven nights. I am 
suffocated. I imagine every moment that I am 
going to die. The doctor has forbidden me to 


The Lady of the Camellias 

touch a pen. Julie Duprat, who is looking after 
me, lets me write these few lines to you. Will 
you not come back before I die ? Is it all over 
between us forever ? It seems to me as if I should 
get well if you came. What would be the good 
of getting well ? 

January 28. 

This morning I was awakened by a great noise. 
Julie, who slept in my room, ran into the dining- 
room. I heard men's voices, and hers protesting 
against them in vain. She came back crying. 

They had come to seize my things. I told her 
to let what they call justice have its way. The 
bailiff came into my room with his hat on. He 
opened the drawers, wrote down what he saw, and 
did not even seem to be aware that there was a 
dying woman in the bed that fortunately the char- 
ity of the law leaves me. 

He said, indeed, before going, that I could ap- 
peal vvithin nine days, but he left a man behind to 
keep watch. My God ! what is to become of 
me ? This scene has made me worse than I was 
before. Prudence wanted to go and ask your 
father's friend for money, but I would not let her. 

I received your letter this morning. I was in 
need of it. Will my answer reach you in time ? 
Will you ever see me again ? This is a happy day, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

and it has made me forget all the days I have 
passed for the last six weeks. I seem as if I am 
better, in spite of the feeling of sadness under the 
impression of which I replied to you. 

After all, no one is unhappy always. 

When I think that it may happen to me not 
to die, for you to come back, for me to see the 
spring again, for you still to love me, and for us 
to begin over again our last year's life ! 

Fool that I am ! I can scarcely hold the pen 
with which I write to you of this wild dream of 
my heart. 

Whatever happens, I loved you well, Armand, 
and I would have died long ago if I had not had 
the memory of your love to help me and a sort 
of vague hope of seeing you beside me again. 

February 4. 

The Comte de G. has returned. His mistress 
has been unfaithful to him. He is very sad ; he 
was very fond of her. He came to tell me all 
about it. The poor fellow is in rather a bad 
way as to money ; all the same, he has paid my 
bailiff and sent away the man. 

I talked to him about you, and he promised to 
tell you about me. I forgot that I had been his 
mistress, and he tried to make me forget it, too. 
He is a good friend. 

23 315 

The Lady of the Camellias 

The duke sent yesterday to inquire after me, 
and this morning he came to see me. I do not 
know how the old man still keeps alive. He 
remained with me three hours and did not say 
twenty words. Two big tears fell from his eyes 
when he saw how pale I was. The memory of 
his daughter's death made him weep, no doubt. 
He will have seen her die twice. His back was 
bowed, his head bent toward the ground, his 
lips drooping, his eyes vacant. Age and sorrow 
weigh with a double weight on his worn-out 
body. He did not reproach me. It looked as 
if he rejoiced secretly to see the ravages that 
disease had made in me. He seemed proud of 
being still on his feet, while I, who am still young, 
was broken down by suffering. 

The bad weather has returned. No one comes 
to see me. Julie watches by me as much as she 
can. Prudence, to whom I can no longer give 
as much as I used to, begins to make excuses 
for not coming. 

Now that I am so near death, in spite of what 
the doctors tell me, for I have several, which 
proves that I am getting worse, I am almost 
sorry that I listened to your father ; if I had 
known that I should only be taking a year of 
your future, I could not have resisted the long- 


The Lady of the Camellias 

ing to spend that year with you, and, at least, I 
should have died with a friend to hold my hand. 
It is true that if we had lived together this year, I 
should not have died so soon. 
God's will be done ! 

February j. 

Oh, come, come, Armand ! I suffer horribly ; 
I am going to die, O God ! I was so miserable 
yesterday that I wanted to spend the evening, 
which seemed as if it were going to be as long 
as the last, anywhere but at home. The duke 
came in the morning. It seems to me as if the 
sight of this old man, whom death has forgot- 
ten, makes me die faster. 

Despite the burning fever which devoured me, 
I made them dress me and take me to the Vaude- 
ville. Julie put on some rouge for me, without 
which I should have looked like a corpse. I had 
the box where I gave you our first rendezvous. 
All the time I had my eyes fixed on the stall 
where you sat that day, though a sort of country 
fellow sat there, laughing loudly at all the foolish 
things that the actors said, I was half dead when 
they brought me home. I coughed and spat 
blood all the night. To-day I can not speak, I 
can scarcely move my arm. My God ! My God ! 
I am going to die ! I have been expecting it, 


The Lady of the Camellias 

but I can not get used to the thought of suffer- 
ing more than I suffer now, and if 

After this the few characters traced by Mar- 
guerite were indecipherable, and what followed 
was written by Julie Duprat. 

February i8. 

Monsieur Armand : 

Since the day that Marguerite insisted on 
going to the theatre she has got worse and 
worse. She has completely lost her voice, and 
now the use of her Hmbs. What our poor friend 
suffers is impossible to say. I am not used to 
emotions of this kind, and I am in a state of 
constant fright. 

How I wish you were here ! She is almost 
always delirious ; but delirious or lucid, it is al- 
ways your name that she pronounces, when she 
can speak a word. 

The doctor tells me that she is not here for 
long. Since she got so ill the old duke has not 
returned. He told the doctor that the sight was 
too much for him. 

Mme. Duvernoy is not behaving well. This 
woman, who thought she could get more money 
out of Marguerite, at whose expense she was liv- 
ing almost completely, has contracted liabilities 


The Lady of the Camellias 

which she can not meet, and seeing that her neigh- 
bour is no longer of use to her, she does not even 
come to see her. Everybody is abandoning her. 
M. de G., prosecuted for his debts, has had to 
return to London. On leaving, he sent us more 
money ; he has done all he could, but they have re- 
turned to seize the things, and the creditors are only 
waiting for her to die in order to sell everything. 

I wanted to use my last resources to put a 
stop to it, but the bailiff told me it was no use, 
and that there are other seizures to follow. Since 
she must die, it is better to let everything go than 
to save it for her family, whom she has never 
cared to see, and who have never cared for her. 
You can not conceive in the midst of what gilded 
misery the poor thing is dying. Yesterday we 
had absolutely no money. Plate, jewels, shawls, 
everything is in pawn ; the rest is sold or seized. 
Marguerite is still conscious of what goes on 
around her, and she suffers in body, mind, and 
heart. Big tears trickle down her cheeks, so thin 
and pale that you would never recognise the face 
of her whom you loved so much, if you could see 
her. She has made me promise to write to you 
when she can no longer write, and I write before 
her. She turns her eyes toward me, but she no 
longer sees me ; her eyes are already veiled by 

Vol. 13—12 2^^ 

The Lady of the Camellias 

the coming of death ; yet she smiles, and all her 
thoughts, all her soul are yours, I am sure. 

Every time the door opens her eyes brighten, 
and she thinks you are going to come in ; then, 
when she sees that it is not you, her face resumes 
its sorrowful expression, a cold swxat breaks out 
over it, and her cheek-bones flush. 

February ig, midnight. 

What a sad day we have had to-day, poor M. 
Armand ! This morning Marguerite was stifling ; 
the doctor bled her, and her voice has returned 
to her a while. The doctor begged her to see a 
priest. She said " Yes," and he went himself to 
fetch an abb^ from Saint Roch. 

Meanwhile Marguerite called me up to her 
bed, asked me to open a cupboard, and pointed 
out a cap and a long chemise covered with lace, 
and said in a feeble voice : 

" I shall die as soon as I have confessed. Then 
you will dress me in these things ; it is the whim 
of a dying woman." 

Then she embraced me with tears and added : 

" I can speak, but I am stifled when I speak ; 
I am stifling. Air ! " 

I burst into tears, opened the window, and 
a few minutes afterward the priest entered. I 


The Lady of the Camellias 

went up to him ; when he knew where he was, 
he seemed afraid of being badly received. 

" Come in boldly, father," I said to him. 

He stayed a very short time in the room, and 
when he came out he said to me : 

" She lived a sinner, and she will die a Chris- 

A few minutes afterward he returned with a 
choir boy bearing a crucifix, and a sacristan who 
went before them ringing the bell to announce 
that God was coming to the dying one. 

They went all three into the bed-room where so 
many strange words have been said, but was now 
a sort of holy tabernacle. 

I fell on my knees. I do not know how long 
the impression of what I saw will last, but I do 
not think that, till my turn comes, any human 
thing can make so deep an impression on me. 

The priest anointed with holy oil the feet and 
hands and forehead of the dying woman, repeated 
a short prayer, and Marguerite was ready to set 
out for the heaven to which I doubt not she will 
go, if God has seen the ordeal of her life and the 
sanctity of her death. 

Since then she has not said a word or made a 
movement. Twenty times I should have thought 
her dead if I had not heard her breathing painfully. 


The Lady of the Camellias 

February 20, J P. M. 

All is over. 

Marguerite fell into her last agony at about 
two o'clock. Never did a martyr suffer such tor- 
ture, to judge by the cries she uttered. Two or 
three times she sat upright in the bed, as if she 
would hold on to her life, which was escaping 
toward God. 

Two or three times also she said your name ; 
then all was silent, and she fell back on the bed 
exhausted. Silent tears flowed from her eyes, and 
she was dead. 

Then I went up to her ; I called her, and as she 
did not answer I closed her eyes and kissed her on 
the forehead. 

Poor, dear Marguerite, I wish I were a holy 
woman that my kiss might recommend you to 

Then I dressed her as she had asked me to do. 
I went to find a priest at Saint Roch, I burned two 
candles for her, and I prayed in the church for an 

I gave the money she left to the poor. 

I do not know much about religion, but I 
think that God will know that my tears were 
genuine, my prayers fervent, my alms-giving sin- 
cere, and that he will have pity on her who, dying 


The Lady of the Camellias 

young and beautiful, has only had me to close her 
eyes and put her in her shroud. 

February 22. 

The burial took place to-day. Many of Mar- 
guerite's friends came to the church. Some of 
them wept with sincerity. When the funeral 
started on the way to Montmartre only two men 
followed it : the Comte de G., who came from 
London on purpose, and the duke, who was sup- 
ported by two footmen. 

I write you these details from her house, in 
the midst of my tears and under the lamp which 
burns sadly beside a dinner which I can not touch, 
as you can imagine, but which Nanine has got 
for me, for I have eaten nothing for twenty-four 

My life can not retain these sad impressions 
for long, for my life is not my own any more than 
Marguerite's was hers ; that is why I give you all 
these details on the very spot where they occurred, 
in the fear, if a long time elapsed between them 
and your return, that I might not be able to give 
them to you with all their melancholy exactitude. 



" You have read it ? " said Armand, when I 
had finished the manuscript. 

" I understand what you must have suffered, 
my friend, if all that I read is true." 

" My father confirmed it in a letter." 

We talked for some time over the sad destiny 
which had been accomplished, and I went home to 
rest a little. 

Armand, still sad, but a little relieved by the 
narration of his story, soon recovered, and we 
went together to pay a visit to Prudence and to 
Julie Duprat. 

Prudence had become bankrupt. She told us 
that Marguerite was the cause of it ; that during 
her illness she had lent her a lot of money in the 
form of promissory notes, which she could not 
pay. Marguerite having died without having re- 
turned her the money, and without having given 
her a receipt with which she could present herself 
as a creditor. 

By the help of this fable, which Mme. Du- 

The Lady of the Camellias 

vernoy repeated everywhere in order to account 
for her money difficulties, she extracted a note for 
a thousand francs from Armand, who did not 
believe it, but who pretended to, out of respect 
for all those in whose company Marguerite had 

Then we called on Julie Duprat, who told us 
the sad incident which she had witnessed, shedding 
real tears at the remembrance of her friend. 

Lastly, we went to Marguerite's grave, on 
which the first rays of the April sun were bringing 
the first leaves into bud. 

One duty remained to Armand — to return to 
his father. He wished me to accompany him. 

We arrived at C, where I saw M. Duval, such 
as I had imagined him from the portrait his son 
had made of him, tall, dignified, kindly. 

He welcomed Armand with tears of joy, and 
clasped my hand affectionately. I was not long in 
seeing that the paternal sentiment was that which 
dominated all others in his mind. 

His daughter, named Blanche, had that trans- 
parence of eyes, that serenity of the mouth, which 
indicates a soul that conceives only holy thoughts 
and lips that repeat only pious words. She wel- 
comed her brother's return with smiles, not know- 
ing, in the purity of her youth, that far away a 


The Lady of the Camellias 

courtesan had sacrificed her own happiness at the 
mere invocation of her name. 

I remained for some time in their happy fam- 
ily, full of indulgent care for one who brought 
them the convalescence of his heart. 

I returned to Paris, where I wrote this story 
just as it had been told me. It has only one 
merit, which will perhaps be denied it ; that is, 
that it is true. 

I do not draw from this story the conclusion 
that all women like Marguerite are capable of 
doing all that she did — far from it ; but I have dis- 
covered that one of them experienced a serious 
love in the course of her life, that she suffered for 
it, and that she died of it. I have told the reader 
all that I learned. It was my duty. 

I am not the apostle of vice, but I would 
gladly be the echo of noble sorrow wherever I 
hear its voice in prayer. 

The story of Marguerite is an exception, I re- 
peat ; had it not been an exception, it would not 
have been worth the trouble of writing it. 








I DO not think that any 
contemporary, however 
well provided with docu- 
ments relating to Alexan- 
dre Dumas the Younger, 
can boast of materials for 
a complete iconography 
of the author of La Dame 
aux Camclias. 

The son of a " prodi- 
gal father," early taking 
his place in a life of pros- 
perity and a society composed largely of artists, the 
youthful Alexandre Dumas, long before he had at- 
tained his twentieth year, had made the acquaintance 
of a host of illustrators, painters, and engravers who 
would have esteemed it a privilege to be allowed to 
reproduce the features of the pretty child, or the 
fashionable youth he was before he wrote his first 
book, Les P^ches de la Jeunesse. 

Somewhere in the world there must surely be a 


From a photograph by Nadar, 1868. 

The Portraits of 

Jarge number of portraits, more or less well authen- 
ticated, of the little Alexandre Dumas the Younger, 
but it would be hard to group them together, or to 

make a methodical 
list of them. The 
only one which has 
been handed down 
to us, one which, 
taking its impor- 
tance into account, 
we cannot pass 
over in silence, is 
Boulanger's charm- 
ing picture of the 
little Alexandre 
witii his hoop, just 
as he mav have ap- 
peared running by 
his father's side in 
=^- the Tuileries Gar- 
dens. After this 
picture, recently 
exhibited in Paris 
at the Petit Palais 
des Beaux Arts together with many relics of the 
childhood of other famous Frenchmen, we know of 
no portraits of Alexandre Dumas the Younger as a 
youth, no studv suggesting that amorous incarnation 
of his Armand Duval that he himself was in dawning 
manhood. The earliest portraits we have been able 



From a painting by Boulanger. 

Alexandre Dumas the Younger 


About 1858. 
From a portrait by Charles Geffrey. 

to discover already ex- 
press the man of re- 
flective mind, full of a 
vague disillusionment, 
with a lofty forehead 
on which the abundant 
locks of youth no longer 
conceal the dome of 

" Acceptez ce portrait, il m'en 
reste encore un 
Du temps que j'etais blond 
et qu'on me faisait brun." 

This distich he wrote 
under a print he sent 

to a lady after a portrait 
of himself by Charles 
Geffroy, executed in 1858. 
We reproduce it here. 
The mustache and whisk- 
ers are, no doubt, in the 
fashion of the period, but 
they give the somewhat 
heavy, massive head the 
air of a ministerial func- 
tionary anxious to ap- 
pear young and fashion- 
able, and we look in vain 
for any of the paternal 

traits, any touch of the From an engraving by Legenisel, 1865. 



The Portraits of 

impetuous Dumas the Elder. These, however, begin 
to assert themselves, and gradually to remodel- the 
face of Alexandre the Younger from the 3-ear 1865, 
as is to be seen in Legenisel's encrraving^, and more 
manifestly in the photographs taken after this date. 

In the photograph b}' Na- 
dar which heads this note, 
and in the engraved portrait 
of 1866, Dumas is represented 
at the zenith of his success as 
novelist and playwright; but 
these portraits are less ex- 
pressive of his slightly ironical 
and Rabelaisian strain, his fine 
vigour and wonderful kindli- 
ness, than that of 1869 at the 
top of page 333. This sln)ws 
him in his working dress, 
and the kindly, affectionate face is obviously that of 
the strenuous craftsman who said of his father — a 
father so much more of a boy and of a rake than 
himself : " He is a great baby I had when I was 

Elsewhere, in works of art less realistic than pho- 
tographs, but far more enduring, Dumas the Younger 
appears to us more solidly equipped for posterity. 
First in order of such presentments is Carpeaux' 
broadly modelled bust, in which the author of Diane 
de Lys rears the head of a moralistic Musketeer above 
a mighty chest, with an air of gallant defiance tliat 



From a portrait engraved in 

Alexandre Dumas the Younger 

well becomes the Don 
Quixote of paradox 
and of a morality far 
above mere law. 

Meissonier's por- 
trait of him in the 
Louvre, and Bonnat's, 
exhibited at the Salon 
of 1887, show us Du- 
mas the Younger at a 
riper stage, and even, 
so to speak, on the 
threshold of the " crit- 
ical age." The head 
has become heavier, and 


From a photograph, 1869. 



^rom the bust by Carpeaux, 


catch the semblance of 
the features of early 
youth, when the fa- 
mous writer might 
have passed for a 
sedate young bar- 
rister, or a minis- 
terial functionary, 
amiable and ele- 
gant, but untouched 
by passion. 

However this 
may be, it was un- 
doubtedly towards 
the end of his life 
that the face of the 

The Portraits of 


From the portrait by Bonnat, iS 

intellectual visionaries, 
and not without their 
special interest. 

I would fain, in my 
turn, describe him as 
he appeared to me in 
his house in the Rue 
Ampere, when I went 
to express my sympa- 
thy with him for the 
first time. I see him 
now as he received me, 
his hand cordially out- 
stretched, his powerful 
frame draped in a kind 

younger Dumas 
took on its most 
characteristic ac- 
centuation, and its 
noblest expression 
of calm and virile 
beauty. Many of 
our contempora- 
ries, who knew him 
some fifteen years 
\ ago, have left writ- 
ten studies of him 
which are also por- 
traits of another 
sort, transcribed by 


In 1875. 
From a photograph. 


Alexandre Dumas the Younger 

of long black cymar, a fanciful costume somewhat 
oriental in its fashion, and comfortable to work in. 
It has been recorded for posterity in the little draw- 
ing- representing the artist in his studio in the Ave- 
nue de Villiers, after 
a photograph by 
Dornac taken about 

Above the low- 
'^ut shirt rises a vig- 
orously modelled 
head, the structure 
of which, as advan- 
cing age accentua- 
ted its contours, re- 
called that of his 
father more and 
more. A mass of 
thick white curls 
clustered round the 

bald summit. The eye was admirably limpid ; the 
mouth, firm and well furnished with teeth, showed its 
strong, fleshy outline beneath the heav}' mustache, 
with its upturned ends. The strong-willed, intelligent 
head, the energetic subtlety of which has been so 
well expressed by Bonnat, had taken on an aspect of 
reposeful calm somewhat bewildering to those who 
were onl}' familiar with the physiognomy of the mili- 
tant Musketeer. Full face, more especially, the mask 
seemed to bear the stamp of absolute quiescence ; but 



From the portrait by Meissonier in the Louvre. 

The Portraits of 

the tempests of a life of passionate conflict might be 
divined beneath the peace of triumph. At the slight- 
est quickening of the pulses, the Musketeer leaped 
to the surface again, with his kindling eye, his aqui- 
line nose, his fiercely twisted mustaches. His finely 
arched forehead, broad and slightly bald, was lined 
by one or two transverse furrows which cut deep 


From a photograph by Doraac, 1885. 

ridges or disappeared almost entirely, according to 
the impressions and sentiments that dominated his 
mind at the moment. A detail which, as far as I 
know, has not hitherto been noted, was the mark 
quite at the top of the forehead, where the scalp 
begins. In the axis of the line of the nose, very 
plainly defined by three rigid and well defined folds 


Alexandre Dumas the Younger 

in the skin, was a small triangle, probably concealed 
b}' the hair in youth. This peculiarity seems to me 
noteworthy. Perhaps some of the numerous adepts 
of occultism and of astral symbolism may be able to 
give a cabalistic interpretation of the phenomenon. 

The dominant impression in this reminiscence, 
already a distant memory, is that of the unaffected 
benevolence, the natural and apparently unconscious 
cordiality with which he received both the famous 
and the humble, the distinguished and the obscure. 

In Andre Gill's amusing caricature, which will 
be found on the next page, where the author of Le 
Deini-Mondc, armed with a pen as with a sword, 
grasps in his right hand a dagger dripping with the 
blood of a paper cocotte. whose piteous corpse he 
treads underfoot, his features are very vigorouslv 
rendered. The same energy characterizes the excel- 
lent photograph published by the Galerie Univcrsclle 
de 1870, from which the engraving which forms our 
frontispiece has been taken. 

In addition to his w^ork as a man of letters, Alex- 
andre Dumas the Younger not only founded a school 
of dramatic art, but was the harbinger of those dram- 
atists and moralists who attempt, more or less suc- 
cessfully, to portray the life of our epoch on the stage 
in all its reality. He emancipated dramatic art from 
a mass of conventions and so-called rules in which it 
was swathed as a mummy in its cere-cloths. He put 
modern sentiments into the hearts of his characters, 
modern notions into their brains, the language of 


The Portraits of 

everyday life into their mouths. Innovators, waifs 
and strays of literature, writers who aspire to create 
without having served their apprenticeship, have 
/ound in his plays their point of departure, and indi- 


From a Caricature by Andre Gill. 

cations without which the}' could never have set out 
on their way and pressed forward to the goal. Very 
soon retributive justice overtook their clamorous es- 
says, their exaggerations, their lapses from good taste 
and common sense, the coarse crudities of their di- 
alogue, the clumsy and elementary conceptions they 


Alexandre Dumas the Younger 

took, or affected to take for the last word in theatn'cal 
science, the follies and vices in which they cut out 
" slices of life," to use the stock phrase. They be- 
came foils for the great and vigorous work of the 
younger Dumas, demonstrating to the public where 
true decencv-and healthy morality were to be found, 
and obliging it at last to admire and applaud those 
very pieces, the high artistic merit and solid virtue of 
which had formerly been obscured by a ridiculous 

In his conversation, as in his works, Alexandre 
Dumas the Younger had a firm and clearly defined 
doctrine on which he founded his practice. It has 
been said that it was made up of paradoxes, and this 
is true if by paradoxes we iijean reason and sound 
sense in an unfamiliar garb. He has condensed his 
doctrine in a few lines which they who run may read, 
embodied in his Xotes sur Dcnise. 

" Love, passion, are highly interesting and very 
domestic," he says; "but conscience, which is equally 
dramatic, is greatly their superior. . . . We who ar- 
rogate to ourselves the right to speak to assemblies of 
men, should at least have the excuse of an ideal, and 
should be able to persuade ourselves that we can 
make our fellow-creatures more disinterested, more 
just, more intelligent, and consequently, happier. To 
keep from falling, or to try to raise the fallen, is the 
thesis that has been flung at me in reproach, and in 
which I glory." 

These generous words, I think, are the fittest com- 

Alexandre Dumas the Younger 

mentary I can make on the iconography of the novel- 
ist and dramatist, who was also a great thinker brood- 
ing perpetually over the vastest of social problems. 
They seem to me to shed a light by which we are 
better able to understand his portraits. 






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